Probe ordered into possible electronic prescription fraud

The electronic crimes squad and a prosecutor have been asked to investigate whether gangs or individuals are using scams to defraud the electronic prescription system launched by the government earlier this year.

Health Minister Andreas Lykourentzos revealed to a parliamentary committee that the number of prescriptions issued through the system, which was set up to cut down on waste and fraud, had been noticeably high over the last few months.

Prior to the electronic prescriptions scheme being adopted, roughly 5 million notes were issued by doctors each month. It was revealed that this July, soon after the e-prescription scheme went into operation, 5.7 million notes were issued. In August, the number of prescriptions fell to 5.4 million. The number of drugs prescribed during these two months cost about 600 million euros. Greece was aiming to cut its spending on medicines by about 1 billion euros, to under 2 billion in total this year, but this target will be missed.

Lykourentzos added that on October 1, almost 290,000 prescriptions were issued, followed by nearly 280,000 on October 2. ?During the first four days of the month, the number of prescriptions suggested that 10 percent of the population had fallen ill,? said Lykourentzos.

?I have asked a prosecutor to investigate this and the electronic crimes squad is also involved,? he said. ?We have taken the database and are checking what has happened.?

Repeated protest action by pharmacists over the past few weeks has disrupted the flow of the new system but there are suspicions that copied social security numbers have been used by gangs to try to scam the government. Some doctors are also under investigation. Sources said that during August, one doctor in Xanthi, northeastern Greece, was found to have issued almost 4,400 prescriptions.

An official at the Computer Center for Social Security Services (IDIKA), which oversees the e-prescription scheme, told Kathimerini there was no signs of the system having been hacked.

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