Benefits programme improves seniors’ access to meds: top audit body

The Leki 75+ benefits programme improved the access of seniors to medical products and has led to the decrease in the expenditure on medicines in the household budgets of the elderly, stated Poland’s Supreme Audit Office (NIK), adding that it has doubts about creating a list of free products.

The government project providing free access to medicines for people over 75 years of age has been effective from September 1, 2016. It provides for anyone over 75, regardless of their material status, with free medicines, foodstuff with particular nutritional value and medical devices included in a list published by Poland’s health ministry.

The limit of expenditure on the programme from the state budget for the years 2016-2025 was set at approximately PLN 8.3 billion (EUR 1.93bn), assuming an increase in funds for this project in each subsequent year.

NIK emphasises that the the list of free medicines for seniors includes only those covered by the general rule. They can receive free medicines only on the basis of prescriptions marked with the “S” code, which only general practitioners (GPs) can authorise.

NIK believes that the exclusion of medical specialists from this group drew the attention of health care entities and a part of the medical community, indicating that limiting the numbers of those entitled to issue free prescriptions can cause problems for seniors with access to free products.

NIK adds however that the health ministry explained that it is aware that the restriction entails the need for an additional visit to the GP. According to NIK, the ministry states that it does not want the patient to take too many medicines at the same time because that may lead to undesirable reactions.

During the audit, a survey was conducted among seniors using the programme. Overall 61 percent of the respondents declared a decrease in their monthly expenses on medical products.

“Despite the benefits following the introduction of the Leki 75+ programme for the elderly, it is not possible to state clearly whether the needs of seniors, by appropriate selection of products for the list of free drugs, were taken into account in an optimal way,” states NIK.