Government aims to wrest drugs policy from regions

Popular Party cites need to establish "equal conditions within the whole of the National Health System"

The government has taken steps to ensure that pharmaceutical policy is integrated at a national level by planning changes to 2006's so-called Medicines Law, aimed at limiting the capacity for cost-cutting maneuvers by the regions. The Constitutional Court is due to rule next week on four measures adopted at the regional level, including the co-payment system in Catalonia and Andalusia's tender for commonly used drugs.

The Popular Party (PP) government has proposed amendments to the so-called Drug Watchfulness draft law currently passing through Congress. The primary two are additions to Article 88 of the 2006 legislation that covers the right of citizens to obtain medication "in equal conditions within the whole of the National Health System."

The government believes that the regions' self-imposed measures are creating an imbalance that forms the basis of its proposed amendments, presented last week to Spain's highest court. "These measures will be homogenous in the whole of Spain and will prevent distortions in the single medicines and sanitary products market," reads one.

PP congressional health spokesman Manuel Cervera said the government's intention is to "guarantee" that the Health Ministry coordinates pharmaceutical policy. "That way access to the same medicines across Spain will also be guaranteed." However, the PP noted the law is still at the draft stage and no amendment is definitive. "The final text could change a lot," said a ministry spokesman.

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