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.
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.
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.