GOVERNMENT promises free universal healthcare to all Mzansi people.

This means anyone who needs quality medical care gets it for free – it’s not only available to people who can afford it.

But who pays the costs of universal healthcare?

Kelly du Plessis, CEO and founder of Rare Diseases SA, said access to quality healthcare will only become popular if it is addressed at the highest political level.

The South African Health Products Regulatory Authority, the Council for Medical Schemes, Innovative Pharmaceutical Association South Africa, and other medical organisations met to discuss some disputed prescribed minimum benefits clause.

One in particular is the access and cost of orphan drugs in Mzansi. Orphan medicine is developed to treat or cure rare disease. They are often extremely expensive and excluded from cover provided by medical aid schemes.

Patricia Matseke, principal consultant at Elsabe Klinck Associates, said: “We see that our current medical schemes are unwilling to fund orphan medicines.

“We have to find what medical scheme system can’t afford orphan medicines and close the funding gap.”

Other orphan medicine issues

- How to determine a fair price for orphan medicines.

- Making patient outcomes and not money the most important factor in these decisions.

- What rare diseases and appropriate drugs must be considered.

Dr Shyamli Munbodh, acting director clinical evaluations and trials at the products regulator, said: “Our orphan drug policy guidelines with a rare disease and drug list and registry suggestions should to be released after June.”