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Hospitals will stock costly drugs-Italy health boss

2002-10-11 16:07:21 -0400
By Rosella Lorenzi
Reuters Health

Essential and costly drugs in Italy might only be accessible at local hospitals starting next year, according to a statement released on Thursday by health minister Girolamo Sirchia.

Responding to the pharmacist association Federfarma, which warned on Wednesday that a "subtle mechanism" in the 2003 draft finance bill would prevent pharmacists from buying essential and costly drugs, Sirchia remarked that lifesaving medicines will be guaranteed and paid for by the national health system.

"If pharmacies decided not to guarantee these drugs, they would still be available at local hospitals," he said in an official statement.

The drugs at risk of disappearing from the pharmacy counter include recombinant anti-hemophilic factor VIII products, interferons for treating multiple sclerosis and some types of cancer, and growth hormone for hypophysial dwarfism.

Following the new rules set for the reimbursement, pharmacists will not earn a profit on such costly drugs. In some cases, they will even have to buy drugs at a higher price compared with the reimbursed amount, Federfarma said. The association warned that a pharmacist's decision not to stock the medicines would be a "logical consequence" of the measure.

"We take note that the minister confirmed that pharmacies will be unable to distribute these drugs. Therefore, these medicines will be available only in hospital structures, with limited opening hours and not always near the patient's house," Federfarma said in an official statement.

Loud complaints came from the Associazione Politrasfusi Italiani, a group representing people who need multiple transfusions. Unhappy about drug distribution at local hospitals, they asked for lifesaving drugs to be delivered to patients' homes.

"How can a health minister, who is also a hematologist, forget the problems of hemophilic patients. Arthropathy [joint disease] is the most common complication of hemophilia and leads to severe disability. For such patients, having to travel to hospitals to get the drugs they need will not help," Angelo Magrini, president of the patients group, told Reuters Health.

Copyright © 2002 Reuters Limited