By Angelos Anastasiou
The price of medicines is set to come down by 10 per cent by the beginning of next year, Health Minister Philippos Patsalis said on Thursday.
Patsalis was speaking after meeting with the head of the European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations (EFPIA), Richard Bergstrom, which was also attended by members of the Cyprus pharmaceutical companies association.
He added that the ministry would initiate a public dialogue next month on “some decisions that are expected to be made in the coming days, relating to changes in pricing policy and based on proposals made by the Pharmaceutical Services and the World Health Organisation’s study.”
“Following this public dialogue we will be able to enforce the new pricing policy, which will allow better prices in the early months of 2015,” Patsalis said. He spoke of a 10 per cent reduction.
The health minister updated the pharmaceutical companies of the major changes that will take place in the health industry following the adoption of the National Health Scheme, the autonomy of public healthcare facilities, the reorganisation of the health ministry, the implementation of electronic healthcare, and generally of healthcare administration in Cyprus.
“In the context of this update we discussed the issue of drugs pricing and how it is expected to change upon implementation of the NHS and the introduction of variables like confidential agreements with big pharmaceuticals, which are expected to lower the price of drugs and incur changes in the pricing system,” he added.
He added that the meeting offered an opportunity to discuss the issue of a code of ethics, since the EFPIA has adopted one, as has the health ministry.
“We call on all institutions involved to adopt and implement it, as well,” Patsalis said.
Asked how lowering the price of drugs would impact the ministry’s budget, the minister said it would be hard to foresee.
“The health ministry’s budget for drugs relates to drugs in the public sector,” he said. “Drugs in the private sector are not included in the budget as they are paid by the public. We hope that the changes will lower prices without necessarily impacting the budgets themselves. The public may buy more drugs, or buy some new drugs that will be marketed, so the total cost cannot be calculated beforehand. But the aim is to lower the price of drugs for Cypriot citizens.”
On his part, Bergstrom offered his full support to the health ministry’s effort, noting that the EFPIA supports every effort to minimise imbalances in the supply of drugs.
He expressed the wish that the dialogue with the health ministry is continued and results in achieving an agreement.
Meanwhile, the House watchdog committee is scheduled to discuss the issue of drugs overpricing during the period of 2010 to 2012, for which a damning disciplinary investigation assigns political responsibility to former health ministers Stavros Malas and Christos Patsalides.
The ministers, along with Patsalis and the Health ministry’s acting permanent undersecretary Christina Yiannaki, have been invited to offer their views before the committee.
In addition to the disciplinary report’s findings, deputies will also address the issues raised by a recent World Health Organisation study which found that per-capita private sector drugs prices are the highest in the world, while drugs prices in the public sector need to be lowered by 8 to 8.5 per cent, in line with GDP contraction over the past three years.