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News 21 Dec 17

Bulgarian MPs Retract Controversial Medical Funding Freeze

The Bulgarian parliament made a U-turn on its own decision to halt public funding for innovative treatments for cancer and other rare diseases after it sparked public outrage.

Mariya Cheresheva
BIRN
Sofia
The Bulgarian parliament building in Sofia. Photo: Todor Bozhinov.

Bulgarian MPs voted with absolute majority on withdrawing a controversial moratorium on public funding for innovative drugs on Thursday.

On December 14, the majority of the MPs from the ruling coalition between Boyko Borissov’s party GERB and the nationalists from the United Patriots, backed by the Volya Party, adopted the 2018 budget of the state health insurance fund that imposed freezing the innovative medical treatment for a year.

But following protests from patients’ organizations and a meeting between Borissov and the leader of the largest opposition party – the Bulgarian Socialist Party, or BSP, Korneliya Ninova, on Tuesday, GERB made a complete U-turn on its initial support of the freeze which many believed would leave thousands without access to treatment.

GERB’s Vice-President Tsvetan Tsvetanov, one of the strongest advocates of the freeze during the heated debates earlier in December, called on the other MPs to be “more humble on a topic which is extremely  sensitive for the society”.

He thanked all political parties for the achieved consensus.

Ninova hailed the vote as “restoration of justice”.

“Finally we have a result that would satisfy the sick people," she said, adding that GERB have not admitted their mistake and have presented the withdrawal of the freeze as a result of political pressure.

The moratorium on 32 innovative medicines and treatments for cancer and other rare dieases would have saved the state budget up to 25-30 million leva (between 12.5 and 15 million euros) in 2018 and would have affected no more than 1,000 patients, who could use alternative treatment instead, according to the health ministry which launched it in October.

But patients’ organizations decried the move as “cynical” and compared it to “genocide”, warning the number of the affected would have been far bigger.

Together with the Ombudswoman Maya Manolova and the Socialist Party they threatened to take the state to court for its decision. 

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