Patients suffering from various diseases staged a lie-in yesterday in front of the Ministry of Finance. They were thus demanding that additional budgetary funds be found to purchase the medicines they need. The picketers said that those affected with pancreatic diabetes, hepatitis, HIV/AIDS, mucoviscidosis, and other grave diseases were administered medicaments bought under special governmental programs. As the program expenditures have been cut by 20 percent this year, foreign currency exchange rate has risen dramatically, and a 7-percent tax has been leveled on medicines, the allotted budgetary funds are now just enough to purchase a half of all the required drugs.
The protest was organized on the eve of the ministerial session which was to discuss the possibilities of funding these programs. The activists came “well armed.” Well before this action, their experts had analyzed dozens of programs which, for example, were intended for Crimea, and found out that about 6 billion hryvnias could be redistributed for the programs that envisage the purchase of medicines for patients. They had sent their proposals to the Cabinet and were now waiting for concessions and understanding from the Ministry of Finance.
“There are medicines for HIV/AIDS until September but none for mucoviscidosis and phenylketonuria. Cancer and hemophilia patients may be also left without medicines perhaps in the autumn,” says Patients of Ukraine charitable foundation expert Natalia Krasnenkova. “What also caused this problem is the fact that the Ministry of Public Health has not yet called for bids to purchase the needed medicines. It is mid-June now, but the auction has not even begun.”
Back in May, representatives of patients’ organizations met the minister of public health and pharmaceutical companies’ top executives to try to find together a way out of the situation. As a result, the leading pharmaceutical producers agreed to sell medicines for these programs at last year’s prices. The only thing still to be done was to call for bids in time.
“The day before yesterday, the Bidding Committee made a decision about the first 15 auctions. This must still go through a certain procedure at the Ministry of Economics. I think the list will be published on Thursday or Friday on the Public Health Ministry’s website,” Oleh Musii explains. “It took some time to replace the key part-time specialists and commission heads, for we wanted to conduct the bidding procedures transparently and fairly. It is a critical situation now, and will be unable to ideally carry out the bidding this year, but many things have really changed. The problem of failure to purchase the medicines in time (and they will be out of stock) can only emerge in three out of 30 programs.”
Some picketers said there was a somewhat different reason why the bidding has not yet been held. One of the deputy ministers, who heads the bidding commission, is trying to thwart the auctions and is not signing the necessary documents. He is doing this deliberately to set up the minister of public health and demand that he be dismissed from office. Indeed, the latest Verkhovna Rada session heard the request of some MPs to dismiss Oleh Musii – also for disrupting the bidding process. Regretfully, these political games may adversely affect patients.