Chronic Patients Struggle with Drug Shortages and Additional Payments in the Czech Republic

Chronic patients in the Czech Republic are contending with drug shortages. Innovative medicines are available, but the issue lies with the regular medications that patients depend on. This predicament affects patients with cystic fibrosis and Parkinson’s disease, among others. Even when the Ministry of Health manages to secure drugs from abroad, patients sometimes refuse them because the ministry has not been able to arrange reimbursement in time, leaving patients with an additional payment of several hundred crowns. This was revealed at the Patient Forum organized by the National Association of Patient Organizations.

A leading issue is the lack of digestive enzymes that cystic fibrosis patients need, according to Simona Zábranská, representing the Cystic Fibrosis Patients’ Club. The limited availability of these drugs complicates life for patients who cannot digest food. If they do not take their medication, undigested food accumulates in the stomach, causing severe abdominal pain, bloating, and diarrhea.

This problem is not isolated to cystic fibrosis patients. The National Association of Patient Organizations conducted a survey revealing that specific diagnoses are missing irreplaceable drugs, such as those for Parkinson’s disease, or a shortage of medicines made from blood plasma.

According to Daniela Rrahmaniová, director of the Drug Department at the Ministry of Health, the supplement payment is often due to a drug’s unavailability elsewhere in Europe. The ministry is also constrained by law, which makes it nearly impossible to secure medications within 14 days.

Patient organizations have also pointed out that some drugs for chronic patients are being exported abroad through the Czech Republic, further exacerbating their scarcity. The Ministry of Health can do nothing about these illegal re-exports, but it calls organizations to report this to the State Institute for Drug Control. Patients now pin their hopes on an amendment to the Drug Act, awaiting final deliberation by MPs. It will introduce new obligations for drug records in pharmacies, and the fine for unauthorized exports abroad will increase to 20 million crowns from the current two million.