Pharmacy profit cut raises ire

Up to 90 million euros of public money will be saved next year thanks to a decision to reduce pharmacists? profit margin by 3 percent, Health Minister Andreas Loverdos said on Wednesday, but the move immediately met with resistance from pharmacy owners, who will strike next week.

Loverdos described the projected 60- to 90-million-euro reduction as a ?substantial saving? that would help the government achieve its target of reducing spending on medicines by publicly funded social security funds by 1 billion euros in 2012. The government has already reduced drugs expenditure from 5.2 billion euros in 2009 to 3.6 billion this year.

Total spending on healthcare via the social security funds reached 7 billion euros this year, down 3.6 billion from 2009. Labor Minister Giorgos Koutroumanis said that without this reduction, the government would have had to slash pensions by 12 percent.

Loverdos said the latest reduction means pharmacists? profit margins will be 18 percent rather than the original 23 percent. However, the head of the Panhellenic Pharmaceutical Association, Theodoros Ambatzoglou, said that social security funds are already heavily in debt to pharmacies and that the latest measure would lead to more stores closing.

?At a time when the social security funds owe 400 million euros, at a time when pharmacies are shutting down because of the asphyxiating credit terms being applied by multinationals and banks, Mr Loverdos chose to reduce even further the tiny income that pharmacists have,? said Ambatzoglou. ?We hold him responsible for the chaos that will ensue in the new year in terms of the supply of medicines.?

The union called a strike for January 2 and 3. It also said pharmacies will not provide drugs on credit to customers insured with social security funds. Instead, they will be asked to pay in full for the medicines and then claim the money back from their funds. Loverdos said that doctors issue some 6 million prescriptions a month for patients insured with social security funds.

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