Public Affairs 2008 / 1st Place / The Association to Support Leukemia Patients: A Court Case to Increase Governmental Financing for Medications
Public politics campaigns
Title of campaign:
The Association to Support Leukaemia Patients: A Court Case to Increase
Government Financing for Medications
short common description of the campaign::
There are some 4,000 leukaemia patients in Latvia today. Treatment is
complicated and expensive, and government financing for the treatment remains
inadequate. Not all patients receive the medications which they need. In 2007 40
patients got one of the most effective medications free of charge (state financed),
in year 2008 - 39 patients, while there are approximately 250 patients who need
The agency has helped the Association for several years now to pursue dialogue
with government institutions on the subject of insufficient financing for
medications. Unlike in past years, in 2008 the government did not plan to increase
overall financing for medications.
This meant that there was a need for a more radical approach so as to increase
government financing more substantially.
Latvia is not a country in which patients go to court against the government very
often. Indeed, no one has ever gone to court over the issue of availability of
research work done during the campaign:
The client: The Association to Support Leukaemia Patients
• To launch a court case for leukaemia patients against the state so as to ensure
greater state financing for these patients, as well as to focus public attention to
problems and shortcomings in the laws which apply to the availability of
medications for leukaemia patients;
• To attract financing for the court case;
• To receive public support of leukaemia patients so that public pressure might
force political decisions. During the research phase, the agency thoroughly
investigated the way in which decisions are taken on the subject of increased
financing for certain types of medical treatments.
In consultation with attorneys, the agency studied methods via which the rights of
patients could be supported through legal proceedings. The agency also studied
the experience of other countries (Estonia, Lithuania, Great Britain and others) to
see how patient interests are defended there. Finally, the agency examined those
non-governmental organisations from which financing could be sought out for the
• Informing the media and the broader public about the problem;
• Using publicity and public response to attract financing for the court case;
• Launching the court case.
To distribute information about the problem, the agency made use of a tradition
that had been launched in the previous year - observing Leukaemia Day. The
events this year were organised by the agency at two hospitals, involving patients,
doctors and the media in the process.
To ensure publicity and response for Leukaemia Day, the agency carried out a
media relations programme - extensive information, invitations to the media to
take part in various events, as well as interviews with patients.
To launch the court case, the agency found financing thanks to extensive public
response. Because the Association itself did not have the necessary money,
partners were found to cover the legal proceedings. Attorneys agreed to handle the
case for a reduced fee (partly on a pro bono basis).
In terms of information during Leukaemia Day, performances were staged for
patients at the paediatric and the adult hospital. The agency prepared an open
letter to the Health Ministry, pointing out that there is insufficient financing for
leukaemia treatments. Participants at the Leukaemia Day events signed the letter.
Children who are suffering from leukaemia joined with artists to paint porcelain
cups. Students from the Smiltene Gymnasium had prepared greetings. They played
with the children and helped them with the painting work. The cups were later
delivered to patients and doctors at the Department of Haematology at the Linezers
Hospital. Media representatives participated in the event, as well.
The Association presented a gift to the clinic at the Linezers Hospital - three
laptops for the transplantation unit so that patients would have links to the outer
world during their lengthy process of recuperation. A concert was staged.
In terms of publicity and response (the media relations programme), the media
received information in advance of Leukaemia Day, with information about the
relevant events, the diseases as such, and the availability of medications in Latvia.
During the events, the media could interview patients and their relatives. Later
there were individual media relations approaches, co-ordinating the emphasis of
problems among leukaemia patients in the media. The media were also informed
about the possibility that the court case would be launched soon.
In accumulating financing for the court process and launching the court case, the
agency investigated whether the Soros Foundation would be interested. It
prepared a proposal on financing for two court processes at the Administrative
District Court. Thanks to the Soros Foundation's support, the agency could work
with one of the best law firms in Latvia. The first lawsuit was filed toward the end
Results of the campaign and evaluation::
• The campaign has achieved its primary goal - with minimal resources, one of the
members of the Association has managed to launch a court case against the state.
Even though such proceedings in Latvia tend to require years, the launch of the
case as such is very important in terms of facilitating greater financing for patients.
• The agency attracted financing from the Soros Foundation.
• The case attracted a great deal of media response, thus focusing public attention
on the problem.
• The court case was declared to be a precedent in Latvian court practice.
• The events at the hospitals and the court case attracted a great deal of public
• The publicity attracted public attention - there were 5 television stories on all of
Latvia's leading television stations, 3 radio stories, and 27 publications in the print
and the Internet media.
• The number of visitors to the Association's homepage has nearly doubled.
Patients with similar problems have approached the Association.
• After announcement of court case, various institutions pay attention to the
limited availability of medications for leukaemia patients. Ministry of Health is
forced to explain the reasons why some patients lack medication. Parliament
Human Rights and Public Affairs Committee has requested Ministry of Health to
work out solutions that all leukaemia patients could receive medications when it is