By Jean Christou
The Cyprus Pharmaceutical Association (CPA) said on Tuesday it was against any new drop in medicine prices in March without a dialogue between the health ministry and stakeholders.
The health ministry on Friday announced that the price of almost 2,000 medicines had been reduced by around 15.5 per cent on average but in some cases the reductions were as high as 80 per cent.
The new prices came into effect on Monday.
An updated price list includes the maximum retail and wholesale prices of 5,374 medicines, of which 1,968 were reduced while 442 are to remain at current levels. Another 333 drugs were already under a price freeze, which is to remain in force. The remainder, those non-prescription medicines whose price is below €10 are exempt from price controls.
Health Minister Philippos Patsalides said further reductions of eight to 10 per cent would be put in place in March, and even more when the national health scheme came into effect next year.
But CPA head Avgoustinos Potamitis told the Cyprus Mail on Tuesday that if prices fell aggressively it would cause problems down the line.
Potamitis said that while the CPA was all for the reductions so far, the health minister had not discussed a March price fall with stakeholders.
“It will be a problem if he proceeds,” said Potamitis. “So far it has gone smoothly but if prices are drastically cut the big companies abroad will not be interested in supplying medicines to Cyprus,” he said, adding that there might even be a danger of them pulling out. This would leave Cypriot patients without certain medicines.
“We feel it’s too soon to make such a decision,” he said of a possible price cut in March, and that in any case prices would come down next year when the NHS began operating.
“We need to sit and have a dialogue to see what the suppliers have to say,” said Potamitis. “It is going to have to be acceptable and agreed.” He said a meeting had been set up with the ministry for next week. Monday’s drop in prices, Potamitis said, had gone smoothly. “The drop this month was part of an agreement and we will stick by it,” he said.
“But if this goes ahead in March we will have problems and we want to avoid that. It is the patients who will suffer,” he concluded.
The CPA argument was not without merit, according to last year’s World Health Organisation (WHO) report on medicine prices in Cyprus, which it said were among the most expensive in the world.
And while it recommended an immediate eight to 10 per cent reduction across the board, the WHO cautioned that a price decline higher than that “may have adverse consequences for both the private and the public sectors in terms of availability, and therefore needs to be studied carefully before being implemented”.
“An aggressive price cut may have an impact on availability of certain products on the market if their prices are referenced by other countries. The price cut should not be too substantial in order to ensure the continued supply of product on the Cypriot market and/or the discounts received in the public sector for these products,” the report added.