NEWS

Pharmacists, doctors walk off job

In the first strike for 2012, Greece’s pharmacies and doctors on Monday walked off the job to protest changes in the health sector that include a reduction in drug prices.

Drug store owners around Greece launched a 48-hour strike on Monday in protest at the government?s decision to reduce their profit margins for medicines and social security funds? failure to settle their outstanding bills.

As of Sunday, pharmacists are also refusing to provide drugs on credit to customers insured with social security funds, which owe pharmacies a combined total of some 400 million euros. Customers will instead be asked to pay in full for the medicines and then claim the money back from their funds.

Up to 90 million euros of public money would be saved this year thanks to a decision to reduce pharmacists? profit margin by 3 percent, Health Minister Andreas Loverdos said last 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 already reduced drugs expenditure from 5.2 billion euros in 2009 to 3.6 billion last year.

Meanwhile, state hospital doctors will also be on strike until Thursday as they protest changes to healthcare provision, which they fear could mean that they lose the right to issue prescriptions for some patients.

The doctors have said they will show up at clinics but only treat emergency cases.