The average life expectancy of a Ukrainian male is ten years shorter than that of an average man living in Switzerland. Ukraine’s healthcare system has witnessed years of neglect and dwindling funding, resulting in Ukrainians paying over 46% of healthcare expenditures out of pocket, compared a world average of 18%. However, over the past year, the situation has started to change.
Ever since the new team of professionals took over Ukraine’s Health Ministry they are proving to be serious about reform. Headed by US native Ulyana Suprun, a former volunteer and director of humanitarian initiatives of the World Congress of Ukrainians, the Ministry of Health of Ukraine has already launched a number of reforms, namely: introduction of a system of international protocols for treatment, transfer of hospitals from state to communal provision, and a new format of transparent public procurement of medicines through international organizations, which certainly brought Ukraine to a new level of quality and transparent procurement. The American Chamber of Commerce in Ukraine supports the new team at the Ministry of Health of Ukraine in the reform process. Progress is clearly visible, but much still needs to be done.
The Greatest Wealth is Health
The recent launch of a new reimbursement system of medicinal products is a good and long-awaited step. The Chamber’s Healthcare Committee, in close cooperation with the Ministry of Health, have been continuously working on reaching a fair balance in the establishment of the reimbursement mechanism that will provide patients with access to affordable and quality medicines in Ukraine. Sadly, in some regions of Ukraine this procedure is being disrupted locally. It is vital now for the Government to be unquestioning and to intervene in the situation in order to stop the resistance. This reimbursement mechanism should work properly and fully in every region of Ukraine.
The establishment of the National Essential Medicines List, which was proposed by the Government in March 2017, has, however, created risks for patients. First, there is limited access, or in certain cases, no access at all to some medicinal products which are not covered by international procurement. Second, there is a risk of interruptions to ongoing therapy.
In the sphere of healthcare hardware and medical devices nothing has been done either. Healthcare Intellectual Property Rights protection also leaves much to be desired. Ukraine should build a strong IP rights regime, which ensures and accelerates patient access to innovative treatment. A weak Intellectual Property regime in its turn can be a deal-breaker for a technology firm that is looking to invest in Ukraine's healthcare sector.
Trying to watch out for trends, the Chamber launched a Healthcare Marketing HUB, an effective platform for dialogue on business performance in the Ukrainian pharmaceutical market, which assembles industry professionals from leading companies to discuss innovative ideas, monitors development of the industry’s vectors, and track new market trends.
No Reform Means No Investment
In terms of healthcare potential, Ukraine has a lot to offer. Already, international investors are interested in the Ukrainian market. But at the present moment high-quality healthcare reform is crucial to attract Foreign Direct Investment.
Such factors as an efficient and transparent medicinal product registration system and IP rights regulations, a developed and sufficiently financed medicinal products reimbursement system, competitive tax system, level playing field for investors, continuous and structured dialogue between the industry and the government, are all especially important in determining new investment.
The successful implementation of healthcare reform requires the bold will of politicians, support from the business community and an understanding from the public. Everyone has to be engaged in the reform process and finally make Ukrainian healthcare a right, not a privilege.