Decreed unconstitutional, drug pricing up for review

The government is to change the way medications are priced to conform with the average prices in more than one member state of the (enlarged) European Union, according to Deputy Development Minister Yiannis Papathanassiou. «Many have made the mistake of presuming that the new pricing policy will lead to major increases in the price of medications,» Papathanassiou told the recent conference «Pharmaceutical Policy in Greece,» held by the National School for Public Health (ESDY) and the Hellenic Association of Pharmaceutical Companies (SFEE). «They have jumped the gun, because after the Council of State’s decision is published, we will probably determine the price of a medication based on the average of more than one European Union member state. However, now we are part of an EU with 25 members.» The Council of State has ruled that the current system of pricing medications (the lowest in the European Union) is unconstitutional. Nevertheless, the Development Ministry is awaiting the official text of the ruling before deciding on the new system. Papanthassiou did say that the new policy would include everything from «extremely limited increases to very considerable decreases.» He said the prices of a widely used range of drugs, on which the patent had expired some years ago, could be reduced. «The method eventually chosen will be discussed with market organizations. However, the Cassandras among us should not presume that the state does not have its own weapons, nor the desire to protect the social security funds and their contributors,» he said. Papathanassiou also emphasized that the new pricing policy would be aimed at supporting the domestic pharmaceutical industry and fund contributors’ access to high-quality medicines at accessible prices. SFEE President Giorgos Sykianakis, referring to the Economy Ministry’s recent legislative amendment on the hospitals’ debts, expressed his disappointment at the fact that there is no provision for a final resolution of the debts. Drug habits A survey presented by ESDY on the consumption of pharmaceuticals in Greece carried out in October among 1,000 people showed that the vast majority of patients get their medicines on the basis of a doctors’ prescription; just 6 percent said they bought them on the advice of a pharmacist. The most frequently encountered health problems were cited as hypertension, muscular-skeletal and cardiological problems. Three in 10 patients said they had medicines in the home that had been left over from previous illnesses; 15 percent said they bought medicines using old prescriptions. Half of the respondents said they had spent up to 29 euros on medicines over the past three months, 38 percent had spent 30-99 euros and 9 percent over 100 euros. Of those who had bought medication over the past three months, 13 percent had paid out of their own pockets and had not been reimbursed by their social security fund, half of them because the cost was too low to warrant going through the procedure, nearly a quarter because it was too much trouble to get a prescription, or because the medication was not on the list of reimbursable prescription drugs (13 percent). A third of respondents said medication prices were too high.