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Free Ozempic: Poland's Doctors Brace For "Onslaught" Of Weight Loss Patients For Discounted Drug

The Polish government released a list of medications last week that will now be reimbursed for people older than 65 and under 18. On the list is Ozempic, a drug initially intended for diabetes that has taken the world by storm due to its effectiveness for weight loss.

Free Ozempic: Poland's Doctors Brace For "Onslaught" Of Weight Loss Patients For Discounted Drug

Some Polish patients will receive Ozempic free of charge

Judyta Watoła

WARSAW — The Polish Health Ministry published a list of medications last week that will be free to Poles above the age of 65 and under 18. Seniors will be able to get 3,800 different medications for free, and minors will have access to 1,800.

The list of medications to be covered is wide in its scope, especially compared to past Polish health policy. When the current government introduced a list of free medicines for seniors aged 75+ in 2016, it was relatively modest, and contained just a few dozen substances, which were financed by the state budget.

The medications on the government’s list include modern drugs used for diabetic patients, such as flosin, dulaglutide (Trulicity). But what caught the attention of most was another pharmaceutical originally intended for diabetes: semaglutide, which has exploded on the market as Ozempic, with its runaway success in spurring rapid weight loss.

Experts are suggesting that some Poles might be tempted to get the medication “for a sick grandmother," but actually use it themselves. Ozempic has been flying off the shelves in Polish pharmacies also because of the relatively cheap price for the drug, which costs four times as much in Germany.

Reimbursement limits

The Polish Health Ministry has emphasized that drugs such as Ozempic will only be reimbursed to patients with type-2 diabetes who have a high risk of cardiovascular complications, difficulties in balancing blood glucose levels, and for those for whom other drugs do not work.

Patients who do not meet these requirements, even if they are over 65, will still pay the full cost, (around €89) according to the government.

The same rules around access to reimbursed medication will apply to children under 18. The list of free medicines for children and adolescents includes, among others: anti-inflammatory drugs acting on the intestines, insulins and insulin analogues, opioid analgesics, antiepileptic drugs and flu vaccines, which, prior to this new measure, were reimbursed at 50%.

Many patients have long been waiting for their drugs to be free.

In spite of this, family doctors are expecting an "onslaught" of patients in the coming days. Many patients have long been waiting for their drugs to be free, and either asked not to write multiple packages on their prescriptions, or deliberately delayed their visit to come in for prescriptions until the list of free drugs went into effect.

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The Unsustainable Future Of Fish Farming — On Vivid Display In Turkish Waters

Currently, 60% of Turkey's fish currently comes from cultivation, also known as fish farming, compared to just 10% two decades ago. The short-sightedness of this shift risks eliminating fishing output from both the farms and the open seas along Turkey's 5,200 miles of coastline.

Photograph of two fishermen throwing a net into the Tigris river in Turkey.

Traditional fishermen on the Tigris river, Turkey.

Dûrzan Cîrano/Wikimeidia
İrfan Donat

ISTANBUL — Turkey's annual fish production includes 515,000 tons from cultivation and 335,000 tons came from fishing in open waters. In other words, 60% of Turkey's fish currently comes from cultivation, also known as fish farming.

It's a radical shift from just 20 years ago when some 600,000 tons, or 90% of the total output, came from fishing. Now, researchers are warning the current system dominated by fish farming is ultimately unsustainable in the country with 8,333 kilometers (5,177 miles) long.

Professor Mustafa Sarı from the Maritime Studies Faculty of Bandırma 17 Eylül University believes urgent action is needed: “Why were we getting 600,000 tons of fish from the seas in the 2000’s and only 300,000 now? Where did the other 300,000 tons of fish go?”

Professor Sarı is challenging the argument from certain sectors of the industry that cultivation is the more sustainable approach. “Now we are feeding the fish that we cultivate at the farms with the fish that we catch from nature," he explained. "The fish types that we cultivate at the farms are sea bass, sea bram, trout and salmon, which are fed with artificial feed produced at fish-feed factories. All of these fish-feeds must have a significant amount of fish flour and fish oil in them.”

That fish flour and fish oil inevitably must come from the sea. "We have to get them from natural sources. We need to catch 5.7 kilogram of fish from the seas in order to cultivate a sea bream of 1 kg," Sarı said. "Therefore, we are feeding the fish to the fish. We cannot cultivate fish at the farms if the fish in nature becomes extinct. The natural fish need to be protected. The consequences would be severe if the current policy is continued.”

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