Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Wolves in white coats

Polish pharmacists have now joined doctors in protesting against the new prescription drug refund law. For the good of the patient, naturally.

Pharmacists are closing their doors for an hour a day. Some are refusing to fill any prescriptions unless life threatening.

Doctors' refusal to decide the level of refund in line with the new law means pharmacists are afraid they will be left to pay if a drug is refunded for the uninsured.

The new law was to make doctors accountable for deciding how much the state will refund prescription drugs and make them pay if a patient was refunded but was uninsured. The government has already bowed down to doctor pressure, though they continue to protest. For the good of the patient, naturally.

The thing that irks me is that pharmacies in Poland are little more than purveyors of aspirin, cold medicine, vitamins and French cosmetics. They have gone through a dramatic transformation in recent years in terms of renovation and presentation.

Unfortunately, the focus is profit, not patients. In the search for medicine that is not super common but not uncommon either, I have personally gone from pharmacy to pharmacy only to find none of them sell it. Today, I went to one pharmacy that said on the door it refused to fill prescriptions and then naturally didn't have what I needed. They did have a lot of vitamin c, however.

I think Polish pharmaceutical market needs to be radically opened up. Supermarkets have to be let into the vitamin, OTC and related markets. Pharmacists can work at pharmacies specialising in prescription drugs. The rest we can buy where we like or where is cheapest.

Pharmacies like to pretend they have some sort of special relationship with the patient. That's why they wear the white coats, I guess. But next time check out the stationary they are using. It'll invariably be from one drug company or another. Profit is the motive.

I have no problem with this. But if profit is your overlying motive, as is obviously the worry in regards to the drug refund protest, let's make it a real business, open it up to supermarket competition, drive down prices, shift lineups for stuff that does need a specialist to prescribe, and shorten lineups for those that really do need prescription drugs and a little better care.

1 comment:

  1. Honestly I am not surprised that the pharmacies are protesting. Ever since doctors' responsibility for errors on prescriptions has been lifted the pharmacies are the only institution financially responsible for the mistakes. Moreover, these are mistakes that other people make.
    You and I well know doctors make a lot of mistakes on prescriptions. You and I know that administration (in this case NFZ) is not likely to turn a blind eye to such things. Just look at tax office actions and see how many companies have problems with it (some of them rightly so, but some not so much). However in this case the pharmacy can only appeal to... NFZ head. No court, not other institution. Just the boss of people that will be imposing fines.

    If I had a pharmacy and bearing in mind Optimus and JTT examples I would be protesting, too.

    Not to mention that the new regulation actually limits competition by banning commercials (overall), and discounts on some drugs.

    The biggest lie of this regulation is that it is for the good of the patient. By limiting market competition, restricting information? The purpose of the legislation is clear - to make the system tighter i.e cheaper to the budget.

    Bottom line the new regulation is crap and is exactly against your goal of opening the market, while protecting hefty margins pharmacies and drug makers charge - so you actually should be joining the protest too ;)

    As someone said - after this new regulation patients are protesting, doctors are protesting, even pharmacies are. Anyone heard about drug companies protest?