WARSAW, 16 Nov (APM) - The European Commission is considering a joint vaccination schedule in Europe following the recent measles outbreak in many EU member states, which led to 52,000 diagnosed cases, Poland's Dziennik Gazeta Prawna (pA1 & pA4) reported on Wednesday.
Each member state currently makes its own decisions on obligatory vaccinations and their schedule, while the EU has no control over the process, the newspaper notes. However, the EC is thinking about changing this, despite some experts saying it would not be possible to introduce a uniform vaccination schedule due to country-specific epidemiological differences.
It is hoped that introducing a joint vaccination schedule could help ensure the safety of citizens and improve vaccine supplies.
The demand for the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine has significantly increased due to the recent measles outbreak, which still is much smaller in Poland than in other EU member states, such as Italy or Greece. According to the www.gdziepolek.pl Internet portal, the vaccine is the third most often sought-after medicine after HRA Pharma's ellaOne (ulipristal) morning-after pill and Janssen's anticoagulant Xarelto (rivaroxaban), while being available only in 7-8% of pharmacies.
According to the Ministry of Health (MoH), 120,000 doses of the vaccine are still in stock and 370,000 more should be supplied by December. However, if the officials wanted to provide it to all unvaccinated children aged over six, they would need two million doses.
Krzysztof Kepinski from GlaxoSmithKline, one of the two manufacturers of the MMR vaccine, said its production takes six months and the company is working with the MoH to improve its availability in Poland.
Shortages of measles vaccines in Polish pharmacies
Meanwhile, shortages of vaccines in pharmacies caused by panic-buying among patients due to the recent measles outbreak has resulted in Polish officials agreeing to use an additional 20,000 doses of the MMR vaccine with foreign labelling, which were supposed to be sold abroad, Rzeczpospolita (pA15) reported on Thursday.
The additional vaccines should become available to patients within several days. Free vaccinations will also be provided to anyone exposed to infected patients.
Krzysztof Jakubiak from the Ministry of Health said there is no risk of permanent shortages and that only one of the two companies selling the MMR vaccine in Poland has so far requested permission to supply production batches intended for other markets.
Many cases of measles may not be reported
Poland's Chief Sanitary Inspectorate (GIS) also claimed that, with the current outbreak of measles in Poland, many cases could still remain undiagnosed and unreported, Rzeczpospolita (pA17) reported on Friday.
The GIS said all doctors are required to report any diagnosed or suspected cases of measles within 24 hours. All patients directly exposed to the disease are being taken care of by special sanitary/epidemiological stations and those who had not been vaccinated receive the vaccine free of charge.
Krzysztof Jakubiak from the Ministry of Health said officials have already previously agreed to supply pharmacies with 71,000 additional doses of vaccines which were originally planned for sale abroad.
Poland plans 8.3 billion zlotys spending on free drugs for the elderly in 10 years
Polish Deputy Health Minister responsible for the national drug policy, Marcin Czech, has said the country intends to spend 8.3 billion zlotys (€1.93 million) on its free drugs for the elderly programme within ten years.
Czech was speaking in an interview published on Thursday in Rzeczpospolita (Zdrowie Seniora supplement, pM8) about Poland's free drug programme for patients aged over 75.
He said the programme has included all drugs classified by the World Health Organisation as essential since the very beginning, except for antimalarial drugs, which he said are of no use in Poland.
The list has grown since September 2016 from 1,129 drugs to 2,021. He said the plan to spend 8.3 billion zlotys on the programme within ten years does not dip into the National Health Fund’s reimbursement budget.
Czech added that 2.2 million patients currently benefit from the programme and doctors have written out 40 million prescriptions for free drugs for the elderly.
Only family doctors are currently eligible to prescribe free drugs for the elderly. Polish officials do not intend to change this rule until the incoming system of e-prescriptions is in place and working properly, in order to minimise the risk of dangerous drug interactions.
Another initiative was to offer flu vaccines at a 50% discount to all patients aged over 65, as flu complications result in 6,000 deaths per year.
Polish patients rarely undergo Menopausal Hormone Therapy (HT)
Only a small percentage of Polish patients undergo Menopausal Hormone Therapy (HT) due to the defective interpretation of a study conducted by Women’s Health Initiative in the 2000s, Gazeta Wyborcza in Tylko Zdrowie supplement (p5-6) reported on Friday.
It led to the popular belief that HT is harmful, and so Polish patients tend to choose dietary supplements that are advertised to suppress symptoms of menopause, it noted. According to Professor Tomasz Paszkowski, this has only placebo effect at best. He said that, when used under a doctor’s strict supervision and when its benefits exceed the risks, HT can significantly extend patient’s life and improve the quality of live.
The damaging study conducted by Women’s Health Initiative has already been revised and corrected.
Medical cannabis should soon become available in Poland
Spectrum Cannabis, a subsidiary of Canopy Growth Corp., has received a licence to import medical cannabis into Poland, which means it should become available to Polish patients in pharmacies by December, Puls Biznesu (p8) reported on Tuesday.
Although medical cannabis was legalised in Poland last year, it has been available to a very limited group of patients through a complicated and expensive unlicensed medicines import procedure.
Spectrum Cannabis said it is currently finalising negotiations with one of Poland’s largest pharma wholesalers, pharmacy chains and individual pharmacies and that medical cannabis should become available to patients in late November. Based on data from other markets, it believes 60% of medical cannabis could be prescribed to patients with chronic pain, while the remaining 40% would be assigned for multiple sclerosis and epilepsy patients.
The first dried product will have 19% tetrahydrocannabinol THC - the main psychoactive substance in cannabis - and 1% cannabidiol (CBD). The company is planning to file for the registration of two additional varieties of dried product in November and start work on launching tablets by the end of 2019.
In the immediate future, Spectrum Cannabis will be selling medical cannabis imported from Canada and repackaged in Germany. It will also organise special training for medical staff and pharmacists.
Medical cannabis is not reimbursed in Poland and 1 gram of dried product will cost approximately 65 zlotys (€15.1). Depending on the type of disease, patients could need anywhere between two and 20 grams of the medicine per month.
Neuca is improving its results
Neuca, Poland’s largest pharma wholesaler, is continuing to improve its results and market position, Parkiet Gazeta Gieldy (p4) reported on Wednesday.
In its third quarter, Neuca increased its revenues by 4% to 5.8 billion zlotys (€1.35 billion) and its net profit by 8% to 73.9 million zlotys (€17.2 million), compared with the corresponding period of 2017. The company also strengthened its position, achieving a 29% share of the pharmacy wholesale market.
Although the Polish pharmacy market is strongly regulated and officials are curbing the expansion of pharmacy chains, Neuca is not concerned, as its main customers are individual pharmacies, the newspaper noted.
The company recently launched its automated distribution centre in Torun and sells products under its own brands via the Synoptis Pharma subsidiary, generating revenues of 104 million zlotys (€24.2 million) and a net profit of 23 million zlotys (€5.4 million) after the first three quarters of the year, which was respectively a 17% and 9% increase over the corresponding period of 2017.
Selvita to file IND for SEL120 in early 2019
Polish biotech Selvita is investing heavily and working on its flagship project, SEL120, Parkiet Gazeta Gieldy (p6) reported on Friday.
The drug is being investigated in leukaemias, lymphomas and solid tumours, according to its website.
Selvita signed an agreement in October to start clinical trials of SEL120 and its management claims the company should file the Investigational New Drug (IND) application in the first quarter of 2019.
While the drug development branch of Selvita’s business is still unprofitable, the operational profitability of the services branch generated 14.2% profitability after the first three quarters of the year, compared with 8.6% in the corresponding period of 2017.