WARSAW, 24 Aug (APM) - Some 75% of the employees of the Drug Policy Department at Poland's Ministry of Health (MoH) have been dismissed or resigned since the Law and Justice (PiS) party came to power, which is giving rise to concerns that pharma companies may be bearing influence on officials, reports Gazeta Wyborcza on Friday.
Deputy Health Minister Marcin Czech, who previously worked for Servier and NovoNordisk, said employee turnover is not an issue and was necessary because of various abnormalities in the department before he took office in the autumn of last year.
However, it appears that the problems in the Drug Policy Department started after Czech replaced its former manager, Izabela Obarska, with Iga Lipska, who was removed from the HTA Agency.
This happened in January from which time the conflicts between the department’s employees and Lipska, as well as controversies around some of her decisions, started to emerge.
The first case applied to the multiple sclerosis drug Gilenya. According to the regulations, its producer, Novartis, should have reduced its price of 7,000 zlotys (€1,632) per monthly treatment after the five-year reimbursement period, but Lipska apparently did not push for this during the negotiations.
Another example is the case of Herceptin, a breast cancer drug produced by Roche. The National Health Fund (NHF) had been asking Lipska to make the reimbursement indications for intravenous and subdermal forms of the drug the same, so that it could save 100 million zlotys (€23.2 million) on the reimbursement of the drug after its generic is added to the list, but to no avail.
The change was made just a few days before the July reimbursement list was published, but it also resulted in the dismissal of the head of the Reimbursement and Analytics Department, who had been pushing Czech and Lipska to make the change.
The third situation involved the case of melanoma drug Opdivo, which is produced by Bristol-Myers Squibb. The company also asked the MoH about its reimbursement in kidney and lung cancer, and, despite the HTA Agency having rejected it because of its low cost-effectiveness in 2016 and 2017, the indications were changed in the May reimbursement list.
Lipska resigned from her post in the Drug Policy Department after the controversies around Herceptin, supposedly under pressure from Minister of Health, Marcin Szumowski, and is now working for the NHF. Both Lipska and Czech deny that the dismissals and resignations in the Drug Policy Department were related to any abnormalities taking place or reimbursement decisions made in recent months.