MPs vote to lower drug prices despite SYRIZA protests

An amendment aimed at cutting the price of dozens of medicines which has been the source of considerable friction between the government and SYRIZA in recent days was passed through Parliament on Wednesday amid further acrimony.

The legislation put forward by Health Minister Adonis Georgiadis received the backing of 164 MPs, while 72 voted against it and 10 voted “present.” Apart from the 154 coalition lawmakers, several independent and Democratic Left deputies also supported the amendment.

It was, however, SYRIZA’s opposition to Georgiadis’s proposal to cut the price of around 100 “off patent” drugs and some generic medicines that was at the center of furious rows ahead of the ballot.

SYRIZA called for the amendment to be voted on in five separate sections but the government and parliamentary speaker Evangelos Meimarakis accused the leftists of trying to divert attention from the fact they were voting against legislation that would bring down the cost of medicines for Greek taxpayers.

“You are trying to muddy the waters with procedural matters to cover up the ‘no’ to the reduction of medicine prices,” said New Democracy MP Sofia Voultepsi.

“You are ganging up on SYRIZA because we are an antisystemic opposition party,” responded leftist lawmaker Panayiotis Lafazanis, who claimed the voting procedure was “illegal.”

SYRIZA said it opposed the amendment because it failed to bring down the prices of more expensive drugs and would damage Greek pharmaceutical companies, while benefiting multinational firms. The party’s stance led to Georgiadis accusing the opposition party of being in the pay of Greek drug firms, citing adverts for such companies on Sto Kokkino, the SYRIZA-affiliated radio station.

Meanwhile, speaking to Kathimerini, National Organization for Medicines (EOF) President Dimitris Lintzeris rubbished claims that generic drugs were unsafe. “Nobody has the right to create doubts in Greek people’s minds about the quality of medicines,” he said. “Checks are carried out at many levels: at factories, at warehouses, on new products, in Greece and abroad.”

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