Pharmacists up pressure over OTC medicines

Pharmacies around Greece will be closed on Wednesday in protest at the government’s plans to allow over-the-counter (OTC) medicines to be sold in other stores, a measure which New Democracy also said Tuesday that it is opposed to.

Deregulating the sale of OTC drugs has been a longstanding demand of Greece’s lenders but the previous government was able to put off implementing the measure by liberalizing the prices of non-prescription medicines.

However, the SYRIZA-led coalition included the proposal in the 47-page document it submitted to the institutions last week, prompting an immediate reaction from the Panhellenic Pharmacists’ Association and its president, Constantinos Lourantos.

The union chief met Tuesday with New Democracy MP Makis Voridis, who used to be health minister. The pair had a number of arguments on the issue when Voridis was in government but they appeared to reach a consensus after Tuesday’s meeting.

“The government has to immediately take back this proposal and insist there is no change as it has been proved that the competition the European Union wants already exists among pharmacies,” said Lourantos.

“The government has a duty to stick by the policy we followed recently with regard to OTCs,” said Voridis.

Current Health Minister Panayiotis Kouroublis attempted to assure pharmacists that they would not be adversely affected by the measure. He said that only some non-prescription medicines would be sold in other stores and only as long as there is approval from the World Health Organization.

Kouroublis suggested that he is opposed to the measure and that it has only been included in Greece’s proposals because it was the result of the compromise reached during discussions with creditors.