Wednesday, June 7, 2023

Malta seeks solution so citizens can access certain ‘proven medicines’

Euronews’ smart-health program allows us to discover the problems some of Malta’s citizens face when it comes to accessing the various medicines that are necessary to treat their ailments.

Wayne Zammit lives in Malta. He had a dream in his childhood. “I grew up loving cars. One thing I always wanted was to do something I loved. But unfortunately, because of my skin disease, because of my eczema, because of the dust , because everything you do is very cumbersome, and it’s very easy to get infections and things like that… It’s something I had to give up very quickly,” says Wayne Jammit.

Wayne was diagnosed with severe eczema when he was 4 years old. It didn’t take long for the problems to accumulate.

“When I went to get my first passport, I was very young. In the picture I had… my lips were disfigured. So, in a way, I was a ‘mini-clown’. There were lots of rashes, and even a crack in the eyelid. My ear was very swollen and red, and obviously, they didn’t want to take a picture that would serve to identify me…and outside for me too Respect… It is a disease that affects the skin, which is our largest organ. There were days when I couldn’t move my neck. There were days when I wanted to cry to sit and get up from a chair. I had open wounds that caused my clothes to stick to my skin,” Jammit says.

Now a cocktail of medicines is keeping the disease at bay. But, from time to time, they cause side effects like nausea and high blood pressure. When Wayne stops taking them, the situation worsens again. However, the ‘injectable’ drug that doctors believe to be most effective is not available in Malta.

Wayne Jammitt says, “I want to know why I have to wait so long for something.”

This particular drug has already been approved by regulatory bodies in Malta and can be given free of cost to patients. However, unlike what happens in other EU member states, it is not found in any pharmacy in the country. The consequences for Wayne and other patients with severe eczema are dire, says his dermatologist.

“The fact that these drugs are not available means that patients have to be treated with other drugs, which are less effective and may carry risks of significant side effects that could be avoided by using better drugs. Patients should not be discriminated against again, they are unlucky enough to have the disease,” says Michael Boffa, dermatologist at Mater Dei Hospital and president of the Maltese Eczema Society.

Red tape, Brexit, COVID-19, the global supply crisis and the war in Ukraine help explain the situation. But… Malta also has a persistent structural problem: its small size. As the smallest member state of the European Union, the country seems less attractive to drug manufacturers.

A warehouse holds all the medicines used by the Malta Social Security. There seems to be a crowd. However, Malta lags behind other member states in terms of full public availability of approved medicines. The general director of the country’s Drug Supply Unit explains that the authorities have started working to find a solution.

“If there are a lot of patients, industry registers a product, and we don’t have a problem. But… when there are few patients, and Malta is obviously a small country, there are treatments that few patients The need … then it comes into action in the government: we help to register, we do the translation and serialization,” says Carl Farrugia, executive director of the Central Purchasing and Supply Unit (CPSU).

To further help smaller countries such as Malta, the European Commission’s pharmaceutical law reform has proposed rewarding manufacturers who launch a drug in all member states within two years of its authorisation. According to the European Commission, this alone would increase access by 15%.

The Maltese pharmaceutical industry welcomes other proposals, such as simplification of authorization procedures, or the introduction of multilingual packaging and leaflets.

“The pharmaceutical industry has to try to make products a little more affordable for smaller countries to the best of their ability. We need to see that stocks, warehouses of medicines are available for smaller countries. Multilingual. Multilingual packaging can contribute to this. This can happen, as one warehouse will serve 6, 7 or 8 countries if needed”, explains Mark Mallia, representative of the Malta pharmaceutical industry.

Wayne hopes that all the actors will soon hit the right ‘key’ to help him.

“I think we’ll get there. Especially if we do what’s necessary, and if people help each other,” Wayne Zammit concluded.

Nation World News Desk
Nation World News Desk
Nation World News is the fastest emerging news website covering all the latest news, world’s top stories, science news entertainment sports cricket’s latest discoveries, new technology gadgets, politics news, and more.
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