Concerns over Romania’s health care services
After nearly 25 years of experiments, Romanian healthcare services are far from being efficient. The system is still sick, and might even be put in intensive care due to under-financing and corruption in the system, the shortage of medical professionals, many of whom choose to relocate abroad, or the lack of patient empathy. Announced as a major priority by each governing coalition, healthcare remains a serious problem in Romania.
This year again, the Health Ministry says it is working on a far-reaching medical reform. One of the initiatives in the reform package is to fully subsidise drugs used for treating cancer, epilepsy, degenerative mental diseases and endocrine disorders. The draft law is still under public debate and can be accessed on the Ministry’s official website.
The list of subsidised drugs may come into force this autumn, after undergoing thorough review. Health Minister Nicolae Banicioiu has expressed his distrust in the current list drawn up by his predecessor Eugen Nicolaescu. Still, a number of 17 new drugs for treating cancer and rare illnesses will be added to the list as of May, including the only medically sanctioned treatment for the Dravet Syndrome, an aggravated from of epilepsy usually occurring in the first year of life. Few children have access to the drug, however, because of its high price. Nicolae Banicioiu says patients suffering from rare diseases have no other alternative treatment:
“These drugs, which are singular on the market, refer to life-threatening disorders or serious illnesses such as epilepsy, endocrine and oncological diseases, pulmonary hypertension, degenerative neurological diseases, or bone marrow transplant. Therefore these are serious medical conditions to which no therapeutic alternative is available in Romania”.
Representatives of patients’ associations claim, however, that their life is endangered, as they have no access to new treatments, while the list of subsidised drugs was last updated six years ago. Here is Cezar Irimia, the president of the Alliance of Patients of Chronic Diseases in Romania:
“This is just another delay and an act of indifference on behalf of Victor Ponta’s Cabinet. The 17 orphan drugs newly released address a very low number of patients”.
Patients threaten to seek justice in courts and launch street protests in Bucharest and other cities, or even in front of the European Parliament building in Strasbourg. Patients’ organisations say the lives of many people depend on this list, which should include some very expensive drugs. Pharmaceutical producers are also dissatisfied with this delay, calling on the authorities to provide a deadline for updating the list of subsidised medication.