By Evie Andreou
New faces on the drugs price-control committee are part of the government’s plan to reduce the price of medicines, Health Minister Philippos Patsalis told a joint session of House health and public expenditure control committees on Tuesday.
The minister said the bulk of the committee was made up of representatives of pharmaceutical companies, importers and pharmacists, something that did not happen in most European countries.
Auditor general Odysseas Michaelides, also at the session agreed: “It is unthinkable and it is probably the root of evil the fact that people with business interests participate and have a say in the committee that controls drug prices,” he said.
Following the findings of the World Health Organisation (WHO) report on Cyprus, which called for an immediate across-the-board reduction of 8-8.5 per cent on the price of medicines, Patsalis reiterated the government’s commitment to reduce medicine prices by 10 per cent by January 1.
A decree is also to be issued in March aiming at a new pricing policy, which will be based on the suggestions of a reconstituted drugs price-control committee and of the WHO. This should bring a further decrease in medicine prices, the minister said.
Patsalis said that in January 2016, when the second phase of the National Health Scheme will be implemented, the unification of the public and private medicine sectors will see a further drop in prices.
Former health ministers Stavros Malas and Christos Patsalides were also at the committee meeting, where the findings of the investigation initiated by Patsalis on inflated drug prices between 2009 and 2012, was raised.
Malas and Patsalides were both considered responsible for ineffectively monitoring drug prices. Reportedly Malas said the probe was politically motivated, while Patsalides said that some of the conclusions were arbitrary.
Patsalis said that he had no say in the investigation and that he had ordered the probe after receiving reports from the Auditor-general’s office, which had concluded that millions had been squandered in recent years because the drugs pricing-committee had falsely used Greece as the “least expensive” country in its price benchmarking, at a time when prices in Greece were quite expensive.