By Elias Hazou
MEDICINE importers warn that manufacturers may soon stop supplying the Cyprus market with a number of products due to successive price reductions imposed by the government.
The Cyprus Pharmaceutical Association (CPA) says manufacturers abroad are already mulling pulling out because an anticipated further fall in meds prices will make them unprofitable.
“This is not an idle threat or a bluff on our part,” CPA head Avgoustinos Potamitis told the Cyprus Mail.
So far, he said, stocks have run out on about only three to four brand products, but the situation could fast worsen should the government press ahead with a second price cut.
Back in January, the health ministry slashed the price of almost 2,000 medicines by around 15.5 per cent on average, but in some cases the reductions were as high as 80 per cent.
Health minister Philippos Patsalis said at the time that further reductions of eight to ten per cent would be put in place in March, and even more when the national health scheme came into effect.
Patsalis subsequently announced that the second slated price cut was being temporarily put on ice.
But about a fortnight ago, the minister issued a decree, under which the prices of all meds – except those under €10 – are to be slashed by 8.5 per cent as of June 29 this year.
Importers call this policy haphazard and dangerous, adding that it will backfire both on businesses as well as patients.
The CPA, which represents about 50 medicine importers, has written to the House ethics committee to complain about the health minister’s arbitrary actions.
“We are still waiting for the committee’s response,” said Potamitis.
Medicine prices – including for the private sector – are updated once every year based on a formula devised by the government.
The prices were last revised in January. But soon after, explained Potamitis, the health minister issued a decree, which froze those prices that were to be raised according to the updated price list.
“So the prices which were to go down, did go down, whereas the prices that were to go up remained the same.”
Potamitis also pointed to comments made by the health minister, who recently said that if the importers stop bringing medicines, the state would take over.
“Is this what we want, to go back to past practices and corruption? We all remember what happened when the state Pharmaceutical Services procured drugs from what turned out to be ghost companies. This was documented in the Auditor-general’s report in 2005.”
Last year’s World Health Organisation (WHO) report on medicine prices in Cyprus said they were among the most expensive in the world.
But the WHO also cautioned that a high price decline “may have adverse consequences… in terms of availability, and therefore needs to be studied carefully before being implemented”.
“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 said.