Family ties to pharma firms dog minister

Health Minister Guntis Belēvičs has come into a conflict of interest in ruling on the disciplinary case against State Medicines Agency director Inguna Adoviča, the Corruption Prevention and Combating Bureau (KNAB) announced Friday.

As confirmed to national information agency LETA by Saeima Mandates, Ethics and Submissions Committee chair Vitālijs Orlovs (Harmony), the committee has received a request from KNAB for releasing the minister (who has not put down his parliamentary mandate while serving in the Cabinet) for administrative charges to be filed against him.

According to the law on the prevention of conflicts of interest in the work of state officials, it is prohibited to prepare or sign administrative acts, including supervisory, control, notification or disciplinary actions or contracts in which the official, their relatives or business partners could have a personal or material interest.

As KNAB explained, the board members of the pharmacy chain Saules aptieka are Belēvičs’ relatives, and his son is also 50% owner and board chairman of the SIA Baltacon. In issuing orders to investigate and apply disciplinary acts against the Medicines Agency head, the Health Minister acted in a way that directly benefited the firms in question, which had submitted complaints against the civil servant.

According to the administrative code a violation of this type could bring a monetary fine from €70 to €350, with the possible revocation of holding state office.

Belēvičs himself sees no conflict of interest in the official investigation he called for into Adovičs’ job performance. She has been docked 10% of her wages for a four-month term and notified that her contract would expire and not be renewed in November.

The minister charged that her actions had led to medicines in Latvia being very expensive, that infants wind up being treated with medicines intended for adults because the medicines registry is so expensive. The public health hasn’t improved, but medicine makers and distributors are the only ones who have benefited, believes Belēvičs.

The Cabinet on May 26 approved the Health Ministry's scheme for reforms to drug pricing structure in the state-regulated medicines market.

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