Health Minister Joe Cassar has announced an overhaul in the free medicine system – nearly doubling the number of medical conditions in the formulary and consequently increasing the number of free medicines.

Speaking during the debate in second reading amending the Social Services Act, Dr Cassar told parliament that the reform aimed at reflecting today's realities and medical advances. The list of medical conditions under which patients are entitled to free medicines will go from 18 to 34 and include 11 conditions related to cancer.

The reform, which includes a stock take and an analysis of the system, aimes at reducing inefficiencies in the procurement and fair distribution of free medicine. This also includes an investment in the IT system to curb abuses. A tender for an IT system, making access for entitlement simpler and more efficient, is to be issued in the coming months.

Dr Cassar said that with immediate effect the number of free syringes for diabetes sufferers will be tripled and the entitlement to testing apparatus will not be limited according to age. A number of administrative procedures have been established for foreigners and irregular immigrants.

The restructuring process includes the transfer of such diseases as polio, diabetes; tuberculosis and leprosy from the second (Kartuna Roza) to the fifth schedule (Kartuna Safra). These sufferers will now be entitled to free medicine irrespective of age.

Free medicine to psychiatric patients has been extended to include dementia and other conditions such as ADHD, Down's syndrome, cerebral palsy and eating disorders.

Dr Cassar said that the government had embarked on a reform based on the respect to patients entitled to free medicines. This, he said, was further evidence that the government was ready to invest in the health sector.

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