On 3 June 2016 the Bulgarian Minister of Health Dr. Moskov, hosted a ministerial meeting entitled “Working meeting of the ministers of health from Central and Eastern Europe on the issues of increasing challenges in the realm of the medicines policy”. The health ministers of Bulgaria, Croatia, Macedonia, Romania and Slovakia as well as high-level experts from a total of eleven CEE countries took part in the discussion (nine EU and two candidate countries).

The purpose of the meeting was to improve and facilitate access of patients to effective treatment with innovative medicines in line with the latest achievements of the medical science whilst ensuring predictability and sustainability of public financing. The discussions were aimed at convergence of the medicinal policies and joint efforts among the represented countries for common activities in this direction.

The meeting was marked by the adoption of a “Declaration of Sofia on ensuring adequate access to pharmaceutical products at sustainable and affordable prices” which stresses on the need to ensure access to quality healthcare jointly. The Declaration promotes health as a driver to economic growth and upholds that a common approach is needed to address the difficulties in access to essential medicines, ensure transparency on pharmaceutical policies and promote exchange of information and good practices.

The representatives agreed to work towards achieving an international agreement for joint negotiations with the pharmaceutical industry for better prices of essential and expensive medicines (incl. medicines for cancer and rare diseases as well as vaccines) whilst preserving national competencies in terms of pricing and reimbursement. The next technical meeting to discuss the next concrete steps, hosted by the Romanian Minister of Health Mr. Voiculescu, will take place in Bucharest (Romania) at the beginning of July.

The Bulgarian Minister Moskov emphasized that a common approach is needed to tackle the challenges in access to pharmaceuticals. All of countries have already implemented a variety of mechanisms to improve access to medicines and manage costs such as claw-back mechanisms and managed entrance agreements. However, all these mechanisms are insufficient in meeting the needs of patients in CEE countries. Therefore, further cooperation efforts on supra-national level are needed to ensure that patients benefit from the latest treatment options.

Mr. Tomáš Drucker, Minister of Health of Slovakia, expressed satisfaction with the meeting conclusions which aims to address the shortage of medicines in order to improve access to treatments that are currently not available to patients. What needs to be agreed upon next is to define concrete instruments and procedures for action.

The Patient Access Partnership had the opportunity to address to the ministers and welcome their cooperation efforts to improve access to pharmaceuticals in the best interest of patients. Click here to read PACT′s address to the ministers