Oncology Care in Hungary: In Need of Reform

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Cancer is on the rise in Hungary and survival rates are considerably lower than the European average. The country’s innovative pharma association has taken the initiative to suggest measures that it believes would drastically improve cancer mortality rates and quality of life for oncology patients.

 

Recent statistics show that 33,000 people die every year due to this disease and the survival rate of cancer patients in Hungary is less than 50 percent

Hungary’s public healthcare system, which is comprised of a social insurance scheme is paid into by each citizen depending on their income, is struggling to deal with rising rates of cancer. More than 80,000 new cancer patients are registered in Hungary each year and, once a patient is diagnosed, the prospects are grim. Recent statistics show that 33,000 people die every year due to this disease and the survival rate of cancer patients in Hungary is less than 50 percent. Some regions of the country such as Közép-Magyarország suffer higher mortality rates and rank among the highest in Europe, according to statistics website Eurostat. 

 

There are multiple factors at play behind the statistics. One issue is the lack of funding present in the healthcare system, with the need for an increase of USD 130 million in the pharmaceutical budget to be able to treat the rising number of patients. The country lags behind the European average in public health spending; in 2018, the amount of public expenditure on healthcare in Hungary was 4.6 percent of GDP, decreasing year over year, while the EU average was 7.2 percent. Another problem is the overburdened system: Hungary is facing a serious dilemma of young and highly skilled doctors leaving the country for better prospects, leaving the remaining professionals overworked and the waiting times long for patients who need critical, time-sensitive cancer care. Hospital debts have also led to long wait times and medical professionals not being paid. Furthermore, a lack of smooth communication between primary and specialised care providers means oncology patients fall through the cracks and vital information is overlooked.

 

Hungary’s Association of Innovative Pharmaceutical Manufacturers (AIPM) recently conducted a study on oncology patient experience and identified some key areas for improvement, starting by establishing a frictionless pathway with steady communication between providers.  The AIPM suggests hiring professionals strictly to help cancer patients orient themselves in the healthcare system and advocate for patient needs, and further suggests developing a comprehensive treatment plan that involves all care specialists and takes into account the patient perspective. Additionally, the AIPM considers improving screening and awareness programmes of utmost importance. The AIPM recently launched a new educational website providing an overview of the most common types of cancer and their symptoms.

 

In addition to suggesting prevention measures and quality standards to improve patient care, the AIPM reports that 7,000 new and promising medicinal products are currently being developed and more than 1,800 of these specifically target cancers. By implementing improvement measures, increasing healthcare spending, and targeting cancer with innovative treatments, the AIPM believes there will be better chances for cancer patients in Hungary.

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