OPINION

Proposals for a new prescription policy

The proposals announced yesterday by the Ministry of Health and Social Solidarity include a number of interesting changes to the existing system. First of all, scrapping the process of approving prescriptions will generate a great sense of relief among the millions of insured, as it will rid them of the great bureaucratic burden that has weighed on them or members of their families. The abolition of the present system will mark a step toward the modernization of Greece’s health sector that will also be reflected in the people’s living standards. The computerization of the way in which medicines are prescribed will curb pharmaceutical expenditure but also help to monitor a process that thus far has been flawed and corrupt. A computerized system would put a stop to the activities of doctors and pharmacists who currently write out fake prescriptions and will prevent those few from putting an extra strain on the funds by getting, with the help of doctors, additional medicines for friends or relatives who are not entitled to medical treatment from the same social security fund. The abolition of the prescription drugs list will, in some cases, improve the quality of medical treatment to the insured. However, scrapping the list of prescribed medicines is, above all, a demand put forward by pharmaceutical companies whose overpriced products are not included on the list. The government must conduct a thorough study in order to set up an effective monitoring mechanism so that the measure does not backfire by intensifying the load on already strained funds. Given that monitoring mechanisms in the Greek public sector are often synonymous with corruption and inefficiency, there is the need for extensive dialogue and painstaking effort on behalf of the government. This is the only way to achieve the ministry’s ambition of containment of the swelling pharmaceutical bill on the structural level. Any gains from the computerization and supervision of the system by which prescriptions are written out will prove short-lived should the abolition of the list lead to more expensive medical treatment due to a rise in the price of medicines.