Shot in arm for medicine

Prescribed medicines will soon be more readily available, and patients will face less of a bureaucratic battle to obtain them according to a draft law made public by the Health Ministry yesterday on the same day as a doctor was sacked for siphoning off AIDS drugs from a state hospital to his private practice. The bill, which is likely to be submitted to Parliament in October, aims to abolish the state-approved list of drugs, which identifies the medicines that can be prescribed by national health service doctors and covered by social security funds. The list was adopted in 1998 as part of a bid to cut back on medical spending but has failed. The government is hoping that by offering a less restrictive system it will make patients’ lives simpler but also reduce state spending. «It aims to protect public health, to preserve the equal access for all patients to medical care and the financial stability and longevity of the social security system,» said Health Minister Nikitas Kaklamanis. Under the draft law, patients will have access to all medicines as the list will no longer be in effect. The time-consuming process whereby patients have to queue up to get their prescriptions re-checked by their social security fund before being able to recover their outlay will be scrapped. Instead, pharmacies will have a computerized system which will crosscheck prescriptions using the scanning of bar codes. New regulations will allow private pharmacies to sell expensive drugs such as those used in AIDS and cancer therapy, which are currently only available in state hospitals. In a first, meanwhile, the national health service’s disciplinary council for doctors decided to sack one of its professionals. The unnamed doctor was fired from the infectious diseases department of AHEPA hospital in Thessaloniki after he was discovered to be over-ordering a drug for HIV sufferers and then keeping large quantities of the medicine to administer to patients at his illegal private clinic. The case was discovered by inspectors in 1998 and an investigation from a prosecutor which followed found that a ring, possibly involving other doctors from the same department, trading in drugs had cost the hospital some 6 million euros. The disciplinary council has yet to decide the fate of two pharmacists facing charges of being involved in the ring.