BARGAINING FOR PAY-FREE MEDICINES BEGINS
The National Healthcare Insurance Fund (NHIF) will close by end-May agreements with teh pharmacies for delivery of the so-called pay-free and partly-paid medicines for the patients suffering from permanent ailments. BGN162.7MN has been earmarked for these medicines NHIF's budget. In 2002 the NHIF spent BGN240MN for such medicines. The deadline which is drawing near made nervous the Union of Pharmaceutists, as this year the NHIF will be closing for the first time such agreements not only with the drug stores, but with the manufacturers as well, and will remit to them some of the money, earmarked for the medicines. The NHIF intends to close contracts with 17 Bulgarian manufacturers for 2003, paying directly to them 27% of the medicines' price. The Union of Pharmaceutists reacted sharply to that scheme with the accusation that last year the NHIF injured the interests of pharmacies, paying them only BGN80MN, while the balance of BGN160MN was remitted directly to the pharmaceutical producers. There were even hints that this mechanism creates opportunities for curruption. The allegations of the Union of Pharmaceutists are not true. The attacks are not grounded, NHIF's press centre commented. Its financiers have calculated that the effect of direct payment to manufacturers will be almost BGN30MN, which otherwise the NHIF had to be paid to the pharmacies for the trade surplus of medicines. This money will now partly compensate the additional expenses due to the introduction of VAT as of January 12, 2002, which totalled BGN40MN.Balkanpharma and Sopharma are currently the leaders among domestic pharmaceutical companies in terms of the number of ordered packages of medicines, paid by the NHIF in 2002. Next come Inbiotech, Uni[harm and NIHFI. Medicines of these companies that are partly or entirely paid by the NHIF account for 17.3% of medicines on the so-called positive list, which the pharmacies should have at any time. Representatives of NHIF's Medicine Policy department claim that 47% of the Bulgarian medicines on the market are granted to the patients pay-free. Contracts between the NHIF and the licensed pharmacies for pay-free and partly-paid medicines for 2003 are preestimated at 2,000, up from 1,979 in last year. 2,931 pharmaceutists (half of the qualified professionals in that branch in Bulgaria) worked on these contracts.