Sunday 26 March 2023

Hospital patients sometimes denied prescribed medicine due to cost

Hospitals sometimes give patients other drugs than those prescribed by doctors because they are cheaper, the Volkskrant reports on Tuesday.

Dozens of patients, including children, have been given different medicine over the past year on non-medical grounds, the Volkskrant says.

Hospitals rather than pharmacies have been responsible for the budgets for expensive drugs such as anti-cancer medicines, growth hormones and some anti-inflammatory drugs since the beginning of last year.

The problems emerged after research commissioned by health minister Edith Schippers flagged up potential problems. In that report, 30% of cancer specialists said they sometimes felt they could not prescribe the drugs they wanted to because of financial concerns.

Schippers said she hoped the change last year would lead to better care at a lower cost and that patients should not be aware of the difference. Now this has happened, plans to transfer other drugs to hospital budgets have been suspended.

Cost implications

‘The minister is right to do this,’ healthcare professor Carin Uyl-de Groot of Erasmus University told the Volkskrant. ‘We have no idea what medicine hospitals are prescribing and at what cost… the quality of patient care is deteriorating and we have no idea if the desired savings are being made.’

The treatment of children with growth hormones is one area of concern. In 7% of cases doctors said the cost of treatment – some €16,000 a year – is the reason for making the switch.

‘Different hospitals have different policies and there is a structural problem,’ Uyl told the paper. ‘We have already shown there is great variety in the way hospitals prescribe drugs on the basis of pharmaceutical firms’ sales figures,’ she said.

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