Should the Seven Diseases Programme be expanded?
The supply of medicines to people suffering from rare diseases was discussed at a conference on the subsidised supply of drugs to elderly patients. The conference was opened in Kozelsk in Kaluga oblast by President Medvedev. According to the Kremlin website, the topics discussed included the provision of medicines to people living in small towns and rural settlements, how to improve state procurement of drugs, etc. The President called on the regions to more actively use the possibility of selling drugs through local medical clinics, which has been made possible since 1 September.
The Minister of Health and Social Welfare, Tatiana Golikova, said in her speech that the ministry was willing to extend the period of validity of prescriptions for older people, which would relieve some of the burden on medical staff and means that pensioners and other vulnerable groups would not have to stand in line to get repeat prescriptions. The Minister said that this could be done by direct payments to pharmacies for the cost of subsidised medicines, including those for pensioners. She said that this system could be introduced from 2012, rather than including the costs in the state procurements for which the regions receive subsidies from the government (http://www.minzdravsoc.ru). The Minister also raised the possibility of direct delivery of medicines to the homes of elderly patients, a system already in operation in five regions. This could be done by specialised medico-social units.
President Medvedev supported the idea. He also reacted positively to a suggestion from the president of the All-Russian Society of Haemophiliacs, also co-chairman of the All-Russian Union of Patients’ Associations, Yuri Zhulyev, to extend the Seven Diseases Programme. Within this programme, at present eighteen medicines are paid for from the federal budget for people suffering from illnesses such as haemophilia, cystic fibrosis, dwarfism, Gaucher’s disease, myelogenous disease, multiple sclerosis, and following organ or tissue transplants. At present about 80,000 patients are cared for in this way, while in reality about 1.5 mn Russians suffer from rare diseases.
The General Director of the Association of Russian Pharmaceutical Producers (ARFP), Viktor Dmitriev, considered that to provide medicines in this way to these categories of patients, a step by step reform programme for supply of medicines needs to be implemented. It should, in the General Director’s opinion, start with expansion of the programme for treatment of high cost diseases in accordance with the practice in European countries, and next, to provide drugs to patients in relevant groups, including invalids categories 1 to 3, non-working pensioners, and children up to eighteen years, from government budgets at different levels. The third stage would be to ensure that equal access to the programme is provided for patients in employment, based on a system of reimbursement by health insurance. President Medvedev said that the debate on provision of medicines to the population would continue at the forthcoming session of the State Council.