Nearly half oncological meds registered in EU not refunded in Poland: report

Although a number of state-of-the-art oncological treatments are available in Poland, nearly half of the EU-registered anti-cancer drugs are not refunded in Poland, Oncological Foundation Aliva has reported.

The foundation looked at how many treatments recommended by the European Society for Medical Oncology (ESMO) were available to patients in Poland free of charge. The availability is determined by the Oncoindex, whose value scale ranges from -100 (treatment unavailable) to 0 (full availability). As of January 1, 2020, the new list of oncological drugs in Poland translated to the index value of -65. Compared to September 2020, the index value fell by two points.

“We are grateful for new decisions regarding the reimbursement, which were made in the difficult last year,” Agata Polińska, Aliva’s deputy head told the Polish Press Agency (PAP), adding that “we also appreciate the fact that within the last four years [February 2017 – January 2021] the index value grew by eight points from the level of -73 to -65. This means that we are slowly reducing the gap that separates us from the possibility of using optimal therapies.”

Ms Polińska expressed her hope that the Health Ministry would focus on improving Polish patient’s accessibility to oncological treatment that stands in line with European standards. “What I mean is not just pharmacotherapy but also the entire diagnostic and therapeutical oncological process,” she said, adding that it was the only hope for the improvement of cancer fatality statistics, which might also be aggravated by the pandemic.

Authors of the report analysed data from 17 of the most deadly groups of oncological diseases in the EU member states. Among 128 pharmaceutical treatments registered in Europe in the last 15 years and listed in European standards, Polish patients have access to just 28 substances.

Another 39 therapies are refunded but at a limited scale. As many as 61 drugs cannot be used by oncology doctors despite their use being advisable based on the current state of medical knowledge.

“This means that nearly half of the therapeutic options are unavailable for Polish patients,” the report reads.

The pandemic doesn’t make things easier

It was stressed in the report that for several months patients report to doctors more rarely and later due to the pandemic-induced lower accessibility to healthcare. This translates negatively to oncological treatment as a late diagnosis of an oncological disease complicates the treatment process. COVID-19 brought about a significant drop in the number of diagnosed patients, Oncological Diagnosis and Treatment cards (DiLO) and carried out surgical procedures.

“The accessibility to state-of-the-art therapies is of the utmost importance. The reimbursement of new drugs and the broadening of drug programmes, as was the case with melanoma and lung cancer, pleases us but this is still too little,” Aliva’s Joanna Frątczak-Kazana said.

The foundation emphasised that regardless of the aforementioned improvements, 11 out of 24 recommended drugs for lung cancer treatment remained unavailable. Moreover, 5 out of 13 kidney cancer drugs are unavailable. Only 3 out of 15 therapies recommended for breast cancer treatment are reimbursed with an additional three only partially available.

Hemato Oncologist Professor Krzysztof Giannopoulos stressed the need to reimburse new-gen drugs used in the treatment of chronic and acute leukaemia, lymphoma, myeloma. He also recommended ensuring accessibility to CAR-T treatment.

Currently, the National Oncological Strategy’s goal is to ensure that 90 percent of innovative oncological treatment available in the EU would be reimbursed in Poland by 2030.