MILAN, Nov 17 (APM) - Italy has now treated 100,000 people for HCV infection with direct-acting antivirals as its programme to eradicate the disease continues, news agency Adnkronos reported on Saturday.
Health minister Beatrice Lorenzin gave the figures at a campaign meeting of her party Alternativa Popolare (AP) as it prepares to fight the election which has to be held next year. The minister said that the numbers vindicated her decision to set up two special funds, each with 500 million euros, to pay for innovative drugs including direct-acting antivirals.
Lorenzin claimed that Italy is providing more access to innovative therapies than other parts of Europe. “This has led to some smaller countries asking me and Mario Melazzini, the head of the medicine agency AIFA, to help them to be able to procure the drugs,” she was reported as saying.
She told the meeting that spending on the new therapies should not be seen as a cost but as an investment. Lorenzin claimed that the health service was close to collapse when she took over minister five years ago. She suggested that it is a much better position now.
Health minister confident about EMA bid
The health minister is confident that Milan’s bid to host the European Medicines Agency is one of the strongest but refrained from saying it would win, news agency ANSA reported on Thursday.
Lorenzin said she had just heard from ministers from two other EU countries, both of whom indicated they would vote for Italy on Monday. “They have guaranteed further votes,” she said.
Experts predict 3 billion euros drugs overspend in 2016-2017
Three experts, writing in the Tuesday edition of Il Sole 24 Ore, predicted that overspending of the drugs budget will be more than 3 billion euros for the period 2016-2017.
Nello Martini, former director general of medicines agency AIFA, Robert Da Cas from the national health institute ISS and Mario Bruzzone, a consultant with Drugs & Health, have calculated that drugs reimbursement spending was 1.57 billion euros over budget in 2016 and will be 1.52 billion euros over budget this year.
They noted that pharma companies have to cover half of any overspending on drugs procured directly including those used in hospitals. Between 2013-2015 companies were asked to pay back almost 1.5 billion euros.
According to the experts, the figures demonstrate that payback is being used to fund drugs budgets rather than to keep spending in check. They recommended that Italy’s 2018 budget law should include structural changes to reimbursement funding and spending to ensure that a fairer system emerges.
Menarini still not interested in stock market float
Menarini is still not interested in floating on the stock market, one of the owners of the group told Corriere della Sera in an interview published on Monday.
Lucia Aleotti said that the company prefers to reinvest a part of the profits in the business than pay them out to shareholders as dividends. For now that means there will be no listing although she stressed that she is not ruling it out for ever.
Aleotti touched on the ongoing court action against the owners of the company. She and her brother Alberto were given prison sentences after being found guilty of tax fraud.
She said she could not comment on the decision as the appeal is still ongoing. However she did note that the central charge of money laundering refers to the Aleotti family’s use of an amnesty to repatriate offshore funds.
She also stressed how her company pays 60% of its taxes in Italy despite taking only 27% of sales from the domestic market. She suggested the court case demonstrates that Italy is more interested in chasing companies away than keeping them. Nonetheless Aleotti said Menarini is committed to Italy which she believes is becoming a global pharmaceutical hub.
Tetanus vaccine shortages
Italy is fast running short of tetanus vaccine after “production issues”, Il Fatto Quotidiano reported on Sunday.
Pharmacies and hospitals throughout Italy are finding it difficult to procure new supplies. However, the paper dismissed the explanation that there have been problems in production as a smokescreen for parallel trading. Wholesalers are keeping supplies to themselves to export to other EU markets where prices are higher, it claimed.
The paper also suggested that the shortages were being exploited to push the health service to buying more expensive products. A single dose of tetanus vaccine costs 9 euros, one combined with diphtheria a euro more but a multivalent product for six different infectious diseases cost 100 euros.