Inequality in Access to Innovative Drugs for Rare Diseases or Cancer: The Czech Republic Lags Behind Germany

The inequality in access to innovative drugs for rare diseases or cancer between Czech and German patients is arising. On average, Czech patients have to wait five times longer than their German counterparts for new and innovative drugs, with only a portion of them becoming available. The European Commission aims to address the unequal system.

Patients with intolerable and paralyzing headaches, for example, are among those suffering from the situation. A survey conducted last year among 521 patients found that a quarter of them received their first treatment after two to five years, which has several national and European causes. In the Czech Republic, people with chronic migraines most commonly use triptans to alleviate pain and accompanying problems.

The situation also affects the availability of Pluvicto, a drug for patients with metastatic prostate cancer, which the EU approved at the end of last year. Despite initial estimates that it would be available in the Czech Republic by now, patients are still waiting for the drug, unlike those in the United States, where treatment has been known for about a year. Only a portion of new innovative drugs reaches the Czech Republic, with significant delays compared to other EU member states.

While patients in some larger Western EU member states have access to 90% of newly approved drug preparations, in some smaller Eastern EU member states, this percentage is only 10%, according to a recent commentary by Euro Commissioner Stella Kyriakidesova. The European Federation of Pharmaceutical Companies and Associations analysis from last July also confirms the issue. From 2017 to 2020, 160 innovative drugs entered the EU market. While the vast majority is available in Germany, only 88 can be obtained in the Czech Republic.

The issue is particularly evident with drugs for rare oncological diseases, but the Czech Republic still ranks among the better-performing countries. Among the 39 European countries analyzed, the Czech Republic holds 11th in availability. “Indicative and prescriptive limitations play an important role in determining which patients can access the drug and at what stage of their treatment,” said David Kolar, Executive Director of the Association of Innovative Pharmaceutical Industry. According to him, the availability of drugs for rare diseases has been improving recently. However, patients still wait an average of four years to access new medicines in the Czech Republic.

The unequal access to innovative drugs highlights the need for a more unified EU drug approval process and distribution network. While the situation has improved in recent years, much work still must be done to ensure that all EU patients have access to the latest and most effective treatments. The European Commission’s efforts to address the issue are a step in the right direction, but more action is needed to eliminate the disparities between EU member states.