Discount Program for Chronic Disease Medications Expands

Many medications needed to treat six chronic diseases are available in Georgia for one GEL or less. 35 different medications are included in the government Program for Providing Medicine for Chronic Diseases, which treat cardiovascular disease, thyroid gland conditions, chronic lung disease, type 2 diabetes, epilepsy and Parkinson's disease. The program is being implemented at 118 participating PSP-brand pharmacies throughout Georgia.

On July 16, Prime Minister Mamuka Bakhtadze announced plans to expand the Program for Providing Medicine for Chronic Diseases in a press conference at his office. He told reporters, “One of the most painful challenges manifests itself in the fact that out-of-pocket payments of our citizens on medication are very high in Georgia,” noting that the government has been actively working to mitigate the issue. “We will be considering this very important initiative at the Executive Government Meeting today and adjustments will thus be made to the program of medication for chronic diseases,” said Bakhtadze. The Prime Minister concluded his speech with a pledge that the Georgian Government will continue working in this direction to minimize out-of-pocket medication costs for Georgians.

Only certain groups deemed socially vulnerable are eligible for the program, including pensioners, people with disabilities, and those living under the poverty line. The new eligibility criteria came into force on August 6 – initially, it included only people registered as ‘socially vulnerable’ according to the Social Security Agency, which provides social support to people living in poverty. Additional targeted groups are expected to be added into the program in the coming weeks.

Bakhtadze continuously emphasized the need for affordable medication, and highlighted the difficulty of many Georgians to afford necessary, even life-saving medication. The Prime Minister also expressed his belief that the program is a poverty-fighting tool, as a large portion of the incomes of many in Georgia is spent at the pharmacy. Since the program’s initiation in July 2017, it has helped more than 60,000 people. Earlier this year, the program was expanded to include medications for epilepsy and Parkinson’s disease. Minister of Internally Displaced Persons from the Occupied Territories, Labor, Health and Social Affairs of Georgia, David Sergeenko, said previously that he aims to expand the program to include as many as 60 medications.

While the program is mainly met with support, it is not without controversy. In July 2018, GEORGIA TODAY reported that, although a total of 5 million GEL ($1.71 mln) had been allocated to the medication price-control program at that time, and more than 70% of the program’s total budget had been spent, the participation rates were well below targets. Healthcare specialist Sergo Chikhladze explained that the program was initially designed to provide nearly free medicine to 150,000 – 200,000 beneficiaries, but was only reaching about 18,000 people.

By Samantha Guthrie

Image source: PSP Pharmacy

08 August 2019 18:55