Questions over projected pharmacy corp donation to state

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Stopping the development of the existing pathology labs to create a new one with the help of a pharmacy giant - such a scenario may play out if Roche, the third-largest pharma company in the world, will gift Latvia with medical equipment worth millions of euros. This has been made possible by Health Minister Guntis Belēvičs' visit to Roche's headquarters in Switzerland, Latvian Television's De Facto reported Sunday.

The Pathology Center at the Rīga Austrumu hospital makes more than 200,000 examinations yearly – sometimes in the few minutes during the operation when doctors need to decide upon the further course of action.

The labs are furnished with new and modern equipment, and there are a few things missing for the picture to be perfect. The center has passed an international accreditation test. There are four more labs of a similar profile in Latvia.

However, a few months ago the Health Minister said in an interview that the oncology labs in Latvia are outdated, and a new, modern one should be built in their stead. 

As De Facto discovered, Roche has made Latvia an offer: the company will invest €6m into a new pathology lab.

Roche is a huge pharma company and produces cancer drugs. Besides, the company also produces reagents necessary for work in labs.

"What is Roche interested in? Precise diagnostics and individualized treatment will be tried out in a small country, whether this approach is viable financially, as the medicines are very expensive. And if the diagnostics aren't precise, the costly medicine is not only money thrown away, but also bad for the patient's health," said Health Minister Guntis Belēvičs.

In mid-April, Belēvičs, together with the Deputy Secretary of State Egita Pole and President of the Latvian Academy of Sciences Ojārs Spārītis, Belēvičs visited the headquarters of Roche in Switzerland. The official goal of the visit was "opening new doors" for Latvian scientists, though the idea about the laboratory sprang up just here.

Roche could provide funding of €5m for lab equipment and an extra million euros for instructions.

The Ministry of Health, which would like to accept this gift, does not have information about yearly expenses of maintaining such a laboratory.

A building has been marked for the new lab on J. Asara street, and €1.6m is required for reconstructing it. It's predicted that Roche could deposit money in a state-controlled fund. Hospitals will be given an offer - to invest proportionally to their number of oncology patients.

While as of now no one has asked hospitals what they think, according to De Facto. It is only now being planned to audit the existing labs at the Health Ministry. 

And while as of now the initiative doesn't presuppose disbanding the current labs, their further development can be questioned as if a new player appears in the scene the funds will have to be redistributed, especially since the difference in quality at the Roche lab and the existing ones will be quite striking.

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