By Constantinos Psillides
DRUG prices should go down next January and the National Health Scheme (NHS) will be implemented by mid-2016, Health Minister Philippos Patsalis said yesterday, assuring the public that ministry officials are working around the clock have the legal framework ready in time.
“We have to move a mountain. The experts’ report said that it would take three to four years for a national health scheme to be implemented, but we don’t have that kind of luxury. We are working day and night to have the system up and running by mid-2016,” Patsalis said, adding that the new government policy on the subject will be unveiled next month.
Patsalis also referred to the World Health Organisation (WHO) report, commissioned by the government and made public on Wednesday that sparked some reaction, as it showcased just how broken the health system is.
The report pointed out that Cyprus has one of the highest per capita health expenditure in the EU when it comes to the private sector. It also called for an immediate across-the-board reduction of 8-8.5 per cent on the price of medicines, along with a push for generic drugs instead of patented ones, which is expected to drive prices even lower. The report also made a number of recommendations on how the government could best pave the way for a successful NHS.
The Health minister did not specify whether the price cut will be as recommended by the report and it’s unlikely that he will immediately touch upon the law-guaranteed 37 per cent price mark-up for pharmacists. Cyprus Pharmacists Association head Eleni Piera had told the Cyprus Mail on Thursday that they will not consent to a re-negotiation of the mark-up, at least not before the NHS is put into effect.
Piera explained that by abolishing the dividing line between the public and private sector, as stipulated in the NHS report, the pharmacists’ client base will skyrocket so they could afford a reduction in profits by lowering the mark-up.
The Health minister told CyBC radio that he felt vindicated by the report, since the experts “largely confirmed what ministry officials were thinking and recommended steps already taken or in the process to do so.”
The Health minister promised that he will push for a complete overhaul on drug pricing and in an effort to ensure market-updated prices he will also strive for a price revision every six or twelve months, instead of every two years.
“We can and we will change the health care system,” Patsalis promised.