Patients' assets and earnings will be taken into account in deciding what they pay Patients at public hospitals will be required to pay no more than 40 per cent of their annual disposable income for four types of expensive life-saving drugs, according to a Hospital Authority source. The proposed assessment criteria for the Samaritan Fund, a charity that provides subsidies for the purchase of costly drugs, will be based on the net income and assets of applicants. It will be modelled on the mechanism for legal aid. Under the proposal, the $200 million fund will cover the full cost of Glivec for leukaemia, paclitaxel for breast cancer, interferon for hepatitis, or somatropin for hormone treatment for patients who earn less than $20,000 a year. Those earning more will have to spend a percentage of their net income on their drugs. But the percentage, in proportion to the applicants' net income, will be capped at 'somewhere below 40 per cent'. It is not known what income level the capped percentage will apply to. 'The higher the annual disposable income, the less financial assistance an applicant will get,' said the source. 'Our proposal makes sure that people pay what they can afford. But it has to be done in a way that their income will not be used up in a year and the quality of their life can be maintained.' Bank savings, jewellery, antiques, stocks and property will be among items that count towards the assets of an applicant. Expenses include rent, rates, pension fund payments and medical and childcare services. Social workers will assess applicants. The criteria form part of a cost-cutting programme that aims at governing the use of expensive drugs at public hospitals. Under it, a total of 1,273 drugs listed on the authority's standard drug list will be provided to patients at $10 per item for six months. Other drugs, including 26 cancer drugs, would cost more, subject to a means test. The source said the programme followed months of consultation of patient groups and other bodies. It will be discussed by the Legislative Council later this month and is expected to begin in the New Territories East cluster of hospitals next month. Patients' Rights Association spokesman Tim Pang Hung-cheong said he agreed with the income-based assessment criteria. However, he said a ceiling of about 40 per cent would be too high for patients. His group had submitted to the authority a proposal adopting a similar principle in April. 'However, we proposed that patients who earn less than $1 million a year should spend no more than 10 per cent of their disposable income on medicine, which is comparable to international trends,' he said. Forty per cent is too much for most patients,' he said. Adult Blood Cancer Group chairman Ho Yin-ming said: 'It is difficult for us to gauge the impact of the new assessment criteria on the patients because we are not given the details. But it is scary enough to think a patient has to take $40 out of every $100 for medication.'