The basic criteria for the system’s success

*By Kyriakos Mikellis

The provision of healthcare services to Cypriot citizens through the implementation of a functional, efficient and sustainable health system is something that should have happened many years ago. The implementation of the system must ensure that all Cypriot patients have access to quality healthcare services and effective and safe medicines. Ensuring access to new innovative treatments is crucially important for the system to be a success. It is also important that every patient/citizen feels immediately the improvement to the services provided, as they will now be contributing financially as well.

Since the system has a global budget, it is very important to set the correct budget in order to cover all needs. This is the most critical point for providing quality healthcare services and for the system’s sustainability. It is not reasonable, and I believe that no one expects that a country investing one of the lowest amounts or a percentage of GDP in Europe for the pharmaceutical coverage of its citizens, can – with the same amount – offer more and better services than what it offers today.

We consider that the criteria which will determine the success of the system are the following:

  1. Budget for Medicines. Investment in medicines and citizens’ coverage should be at such a level as to ensure that patients have access to the most suitable treatments and at the same time that market availability of existing medicines, as well as the importation and introduction of new medicines in Cyprus, are not at risk.
  2. All medicines should be available for the medical society to prescribe, with the exception of course, of the categories that will not be covered by the system. The medical practitioners should have the right to choose whatever medicine suits the patient better. We should break away from the current practice in the public sector of not allowing the doctors and patients to have a choice, as the system directs them towards just one medicine, regardless of other qualitative criteria.
  3. The committees that will be set up and the procedures to be followed for the evaluation of the inclusion of new medicines in the system should be independent of the Health Insurance Organisation and operate with transparency, predefined criteria and specific timetables.
  4. The clustering of medicines should be limited and not arbitrary. It is necessary to adopt internationally accepted scientific criteria so that any clustering does not have a negative impact on patients’ access to the most appropriate treatment. The fact that two or more medicines are recommended for the treatment of a particular disease does not mean that they are interchangeable. Every human body is unique and reacts differently to each medicine.
  5. The introduction of therapeutic protocols on the basis of internationally accepted scientific data is essential and will help significantly in monitoring and controlling the system. Safeguards should be adopted to prevent any abuse.

The implementation of the GHS should provide the capability for a more holistic approach that will improve the provided healthcare services. We are all aware of the inequalities that exist today, so we need to ensure the success of the GHS, for the benefit of all citizens, regardless of age and health status. We should not forget that at some point in our lives, we will all make use of the system’s services.

* President of the Cyprus Association of Research and Development Pharmaceutical Companies (KEFEA)