WARSAW, Feb 23 (APM) - While officials in Poland announced in December that the state would spend 500 million zlotys (119.6 million euros) establishing a Medical Biotechnology Institute (MBI), rumours suggest the investment may not have a big impact on the country's pharma industry, reports Dziennik Gazeta Prawna (pA6-A7) on Friday.
Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki and Minister of Science Jaroslaw Gowin claim the initiative will enable the Polish biotech industry to flourish, eventually resulting in lower drug prices.
According to the officials, the problem is that 70% of drugs currently sold in Poland by value are produced by foreign companies, whereas in Germany or France, 90% of drugs sold on the market are produced by domestic companies.
While the MBI is supposed to help scientists develop innovative cancer and cardiac drugs, it is being said that the state should rather be interested in supporting the expansion of companies producing generics. The supporting argument is that generics account for 89% of the U.S., 81% of the German, and 70% of the Polish markets by volume and that if any savings are to be made soon by patients or the state at all, they can only be made on generics.
Statistics show that, despite 150 pharmas operating in Poland, only three companies have more than 1,000 employees, and 25 have more than 250 employees. Of the 22,000 people working in the Polish pharma industry, most are employed by smaller entities struggling to survive and importing cheaper active ingredients from China and India. Most companies do not have the resources to focus on R&D activities and cannot expand with their products, becoming trapped on the domestic market, unable to retain skilled employees, who tend to emigrate to other EU member states where pay in the industry is much higher.
Professor Katarzyna Sledziowska from the University of Warsaw says Poland imports three times more drugs than it exports, while the officials are not addressing this issue, whereas the industry’s contribution to GDP of 1.2% is very low.
Alarmingly, the officials are prepared to spend 500 million zlotys (119.6 million euros) on an institution supporting the development of high-risk projects, as only one in 5,000 compounds reaches the market, whereas they are doing very little to fuel growth of companies accounting for the majority of the Polish pharma market. Another issue is that even if the projects run by scientists in the MBI start gaining momentum, the funding promised by the government could be insufficient to complete them, therefore forcing the scientists to sell unfinished projects to foreign investors having the resources to commercialise new drugs.
Parents refuse to vaccinate their children
The problem of parents refusing to vaccinate their children is growing, with 30,090 such cases in 2017, compared to 23,147 cases in 2016, reported Rzeczpospolita (pA1 & pA17) and Dziennik Gazeta Prawna (pA4-A5) on Tuesday.
According to the Chief Pharmaceutical Inspectorate, around 30% of parents believe vaccines are either completely ineffective or harmful. Parents are also increasingly starting to believe in pseudoscientific conspiracy theories about vaccines, which are being disseminated by anti-vaccination organisations, and some parents are turning towards alternative medicine. At this point, the officials can only fine parents, but there have already been cases that were taken to court, in which parents were facing the risk of having their parental rights restricted, reported Gazeta Prawna.
Recently, the Supreme Administrative Court in Warsaw ruled that the officials are entitled to force parents to vaccinate their children, which, according to Jan Bondar from the Chief Sanitary Inspectorate (GIS), shows that, with the increasing number of such cases taken to court, the rulings are becoming streamlined towards the assurance that children are properly protected, reported Rzeczpospolta.
Health experts say it is high time to launch a proper educational campaign on vaccinations. The officials also intend to set up a special compensation fund for the victims of complications caused by vaccines. Such patients could receive up to 70,000 zlotys (17,750 euros) and the new regulations are currently being analysed by the GIS, reported both newspapers.
What is alarming is that the number of measles cases reported in 30 European countries increased from 4,643 in 2016 to 14,451 in 2017, while most fatalities were in the case of unvaccinated children, reported Gazeta Prawna.
Pharmacies banned from advertising
According to the Wielkopolska Voivodship pharmaceutical inspector, pharmacies are not allowed to carry out any advertising, even if it can be seen only inside their premises and appears to be purely informational, reported Dziennik Gazeta Prawna (pB5) on Wednesday.
This interpretation applies to such activities as hanging sheets of paper inside pharmacies informing visitors about discounts on particular drugs or times when elderly patients can obtain cheaper drugs. The officials say it is irrelevant that pharmacists do not communicate this information outside pharmacies and that any activity intended to promote sales of drugs is prohibited.
While pharmacies can appeal against the decisions of the regional pharmaceutical inspectors to the chief pharmaceutical inspector or take their cases to the administrative courts, the rulings are generally unfavourable for them.
E-prescriptions to be launched soon
The first patients will start testing the new e-prescription system shortly, all pharmacies will have to honour e-prescriptions by the end of the year and all doctors will have to provide them to patients by 2020, reported Dziennik Gazeta Prawna (pA1, A6 & A7) on Thursday.
According to deputy health minister Janusz Cieszynski, e-prescriptions will save every doctor 30 minutes a day, while patients will have easier access to drugs, because they will be able to receive prescriptions without even visiting their doctors, as long as they arrange a teleconsultation. Furthermore, the risk of doctors’ mistakes that could result in prescriptions being rejected by pharmacies will be minimised, because the system will help properly complete the necessary fields.
The first attempts to introduce e-prescriptions in 2012 and 2013 were unsuccessful because of shortcomings in the IT systems designed to handle them.
Investors interested in Selvita
Polish biotech Selvita has found investors for the entire pool of shares it intends to issue, which means that the company will have an additional 134.2 million zlotys at its disposal, reported Puls Biznesu (p11) on Monday.
The funds from the share issue will be used to continue developing innovative projects, primarily the SEL120 molecule for acute lymphoblastic leukaemia. The company intends to finance its clinical trials at least until the end of Phase II to maximise the profit from selling the rights to the promising molecule to potential partners.
Selvita intends to invest up to 390 million zlotys in total in various projects by 2021.
GLG Pharma could soon start pre-clinical trials of its cancer drug
GLG Pharma, the Polish biotech listed on the NewConnect parallel market, has recently successfully synthesised of its GLG-805 active ingredient in compliance with good clinical practice, which means that the company could soon start pre-clinical trials of the drug, reported Parkiet Gazeta Gieldy (p5) on Wednesday.
GLG-805 could be used in triple negative breast cancer.