Health Minister roils pharmacists with supermarket suggestion

Greek Health Minister Andreas Lykourentzos on Tuesday further roiled the country’s protesting pharmacists by suggesting that the government’s plans to fully liberalize the sector may also include licensing large supermarkets to sell over-the-counter drugs.

Lykourentzos was speaking at the annual conference of the Hellenic-American Chamber of Commerce, where he suggested that certain over-the-counter medicines may in the future be sold at supermarkets, as they are in other European countries.

«We are prepared to take measures toward the liberalization of the drug dispensing market, under the weight of the intransigent stance of the pharmacists’ union leaders,» Lykourentzos was quoted as telling the conference.

Pharmacists responded by saying that they will «not be subjected to anymore blackmail.»

The Health Ministry and pharmacists’ unions around Greece have been in a deadlock for more than a week over the government’s unpaid bill for prescriptions written out to patients insured with the National Organization for Healthcare Provision (EOPYY).

Dispensers claim that they have accrued debts of over a total of 1.5 billion euros to medical suppliers — who have radically reduced their terms of credit — because the state has repeatedly delayed paying back money due from fulfilled prescriptions. They have ceased to dispense medicine on credit to EOPYY patients since last week, despite assurances by the Health Ministry that they will be put on a payment plan — on the condition that they end their action.

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