Cyprus Mail

Cabinet overhauls pharmaceutical services

By Angelos Anastasiou

Several of the responsibilities of the state’s pharmaceutical services will be transferred to the health ministry per the recommendations of a World Bank report on the reorganisation of the ministry, it was announced on Wednesday.

According to an official statement, the cabinet approved a proposal to confer the tasks of procuring tenders, and receiving, storing and distributing drugs, to the health ministry’s Purchasing and Procurement Directorate.

The proposed change, which aims to address the need to elevate the pharmaceutical services’ regulatory and oversight role, seeks to allow the department to focus on policy recommendations.

Therefore, the statement said, its remit will revolve around drug regulation (control of quality, effectiveness, and safety of drugs), pharmacovigilance (control of marketed drugs’ side effects), educating the public on the proper use of drugs, inspecting pharmacies, distributors, and drug manufacturers for compliance with all relevant legislation, monitoring importers and manufacturers of cosmetics, monitoring the distribution of narcotics and psychoactive substances, and advising the health minister on setting drugs’ prices.

Cyprus is the only country within the European Union in which the national authority on drugs – the Pharmaceutical Services – has an active role in the chain of distribution to public healthcare facilities.

The statement noted that the creation of a Purchasing and Procurement Directorate is based on a June 2011 decision by the health minister, following the recommendations of a study by the finance ministry’s Public Administration and Personnel Department, with a view to its future evolution to a Unified Procurement Authority.

Reorganising the structure and the organisational chart of the health ministry – as well as modernising all of its services and departments – was approved by the cabinet in July 2014. Per the decision, such reorganisation must be in line with the ministry’s strategic role in policy-making, legislative proposals, and strengthening its oversight role over the Cypriot health system.

“Therefore, reorganisation is a crucial prerequisite to improving public health and the creation of new structures that will allow the promotion and implementation of the National Health System,” the statement said.

Meanwhile, the cabinet also approved the improvement of the operation of the Drug Council – a body tasked with issuing and rescinding licences to market drugs – by creating two bodies to take over the Council’s operational tasks, rendering its role a purely advisory one.

The two bodies, the Nominal Requests Committee and the Review Committee, will handle requests for dispensing drugs not listed in the National Formulary – the list of drugs available at public healthcare facilities – or drugs included in the formulary but otherwise do not meet the Drugs Council’s criteria.

The Review Committee will act as a second-tier appeals-review body for rejected requests – a mechanism that has not existed thus far.

The changes will free the Drugs Council, a high-level scientific body, to function as a purely advisory body on devising drugs policies. Its mandate will be to review applications for the introduction of new drugs in the National Formulary, and decide on their dispensing at state hospitals. Furthermore, the Council will institute treatment protocols and introduce regulation to ensure the proper use of drugs.

“This change remedies earlier weaknesses, whereby, instead of focusing effectively on its advisory role to the competent authorities, the Drugs Council was tied up in reviewing individual requests for the dispensing of drugs that either are not included in the National Formulary, or are included but otherwise disallowed,” a statement said.

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