Healthcare costs and accessibility back in spotlight

Health Minister Adonis Georgiadis was accused on Friday of failing to live up to a pledge to reduce the price of medicines as a study by academics based in the UK found that austerity measures have had a deep impact on health services and that the government and its lenders are ignoring the problems this has caused.

SYRIZA and Georgiadis were recently involved in a protracted clash over the cost of drugs, which led to the minister accusing the leftist part of being in the pay of local drug companies. He insisted that a change to the pricing rules for medicines would result in patients paying less. The opposition party, however, said that his promises had now been proved “misleading and false.”

The leftists claim that there have been cost savings for social security funds but not for patients and that some 800 medicines mainly produced by local drug firms have been left off the approved list.

The new clash came as an article published in The Lancet by academics from the universities of Oxford and Cambridge and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine detailed how spending cuts have damaged the quality and availability of healthcare for many Greeks, especially vulnerable groups.

“Some pregnant women no longer have access to healthcare, therefore the complications later on in their pregnancy can be more pronounced,” said Alexander Kentikelenis of Cambridge University, the study’s lead author.

Among the effects that the study notes are rising infant mortality rates, soaring levels of HIV infection among drug users, the return of malaria, and a surge in suicides from 2009 and 2011.

“In view of this detailed body of evidence for the harmful effects of austerity on health, the failure of public recognition of the issue by successive Greek governments and international agencies is remarkable,” the report says.