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Statement concerning the amendment of the Drug Reimbursement Act

In its address to the Minister of Health, the Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights warns that ‘as from 1 January 2012, protection of patients’ rights in Poland may be significantly weakened’ as a result of the controversial amendment to the Drug Reimbursement Act.

The amendment is coming into force in January 2012. Under the new law, a doctor who makes a mistake in a prescription will be obliged to pay back the amount of the undue reimbursement, plus interest, which may expose the medical practitioner to very severe financial consequences.

Further, the new law imposes on doctors other obligations related to writing out prescriptions, such as the duty to verify authenticity of the patient’s insurance document, or to state in the prescription the patient price for a given medicine. Also here a doctor who fails to comply with these requirements will have to return the reimbursement amount. ‘We emphasise in our statement that the new administrative obligations imposed on doctors mean that they will have less time for patients’, says Dorota Pudzianowska, HFHR legal expert.

The Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights also took note of the absence of any effective appellate mechanisms available to medical practitioners in the case of an unfavourable outcome of a National Health Fund’s audit. Without such measures, doctors are unable to review the legality of financial sanctions imposed by the Fund. ‘In this situation, the only avenue is a civil suit, but doctors fear that such a sign of “disobedience” to the NHF can trigger additional audits or even termination of their prescription contracts’, says Adam Bodnar, HFHR Deputy President.

According to the Foundation, the new regulations may effectively discourage doctors from entering into prescription contracts with the NHF, or result in medical practitioners prescribing non-reimbursable, more expensive drugs. This, in turn, means that many patients can be deprived of access to free (or partially reimbursed) medicines which contravenes the constitutional right to free access to health care.

In its statement addressed to the Minister of Health, the Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights calls for an appropriate modification of the Drug Reimbursement Act in consideration of the position expressed in the case by the medical and pharmaceutical community.

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