Pharmacists hold firm on getting debts paid

Pharmacists agreed on Wednesday to continue their protests at not being paid for medicines by Greece?s main healthcare provider, which means that patients will continue to have to pay for their medicines and claim back the money from their social security fund at a later date.

A meeting of the Attica Pharmacists Association concluded with the executive board voting to continue the suspension of medicines being provided to customers on credit until the National Organization for Healthcare Provision (EOPYY) settles its bill with the pharmacists. The Piraeus Pharmacists Association reached the same decision. As of Wednesday, EOPYY had paid about 70 percent, or 200 of the 270 million euros it owed to pharmacies. This concerns medicines that were provided in March to people insured with EOPYY.

The government has pledged to settle all debts for prescribed drugs sold in March and April by June 15, two days before the national elections. However, the pharmacists are also demanding the payment of another 250 million euros concerning medicines that were provided to customers on credit last year, when several social security funds had not yet been merged into EOPYY.

State spending on medicines was cut by 1.75 billion to 3.8 billion euros but the government wants to bring it below 1 billion euros this year, partly through the use of cheaper generic medicines. An electronic prescription system, which has had a troubled launch, is also expected to reduce waste.

Attica Pharmacists Association head Costas Lourantos claimed last week that his members alone are owed 74 million euros for drugs sold on credit in January and February.

He also warned that shortages of as many as 163 drugs had been recorded, including medicines for cancer treatment, heart disease and blood pressure. He said that pharmacies and hospitals often find themselves unable to afford to stock expensive drugs.