By Constantinos Psillides
THE CYPRUS Pharmaceutical Association (CPA) announced on Monday that it will be taking the government to the Supreme Court over a decision to slash the wholesale price of medicine by 8.5 per cent.
The price reduction was achieved through decrees issued by Health Minister Philippos Patsalis.
In a press release issued on Monday, the CPA said that it will ask President Nicos Anastasiades to intervene and that the association will meet with parliamentary parties to explain their position.
“The health minister is abusing his authority to issue decrees and without consulting with anyone has set the price of medicine twice now, without any consideration whatsoever about the financial wellbeing of Cyprus’ business that employ over 2,000 people or Cypriot patients that will be deprived of any new medicine,” read the press release.
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.
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.
Importers call this policy haphazard and dangerous, adding that it will backfire both on businesses as well as patients.
If prices fall too steeply the cut in profit margins, the CPA argues, means drugs companies would have no incentive to export to Cyprus, creating shortages of some drugs. The World Health Organisation (WHO) has expressed similar concerns.
The CPA, which represents about 50 medicine importers, has written to the House ethics committee to complain about the health minister’s arbitrary actions.
Medicine prices – including for the private sector – are updated once every year based on a formula devised by the government.
Last year’s 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.