By Andria Kades
Talks on implementing the much-anticipated national health scheme (Gesy) are underway with the pharmaceutical association, which is bringing its own demands to the table.
In about a year, the first phase of Gesy, affecting among others medicine prices, is said to launch on June 1, 2019.
Head of the Cyprus pharmaceutical association, Eleni Piera-Isseyegh on Tuesday told the Cyprus Mail that they have had one meeting with the health insurance organisation (HIO) as to how this will pan out for pharmacies and will submit their proposals in writing on June 29.
Their demands are threefold.
Firstly, that pharmacies will also be able to offer services such as flu shots.
“Pharmacies are the most accessible point of contact when it comes to health,” Isseyegh said.
Having seasonal flu shots available at pharmacies -which are scattered everywhere in Cyprus- will increase the number of people getting the shots and avoid hospitals from getting overloaded with such cases, she added.
Numbers haven’t been crunched yet but pharmacies would be compensated for the services they would offer.
An additional request is a change in how medicine is handed out. For instance, Isseyegh suggested, the elderly should be given a tablet organiser which should be filled weekly by the pharmacy as opposed to the packets they are given with instructions.
“Unfortunately, the law does not include provisions for this,” Isseyegh said but they were optimistic changes could be brought about through dialogue.
The new system, under Gesy will work like this: patients – both from the private and public sectors – will bring their prescription to their neighbourhood pharmacy. They will pay just €1 per packet as co-pay.
The transaction is entered into a computer database shared by the entire healthcare sector. The chemist transfers the €1 per packet to the government, and files a reimbursement claim with the HIO for the retail price of the drug.
If a patient wants a different drug to that prescribed, one that is not on the HIO’s list, he or she will pay the difference out of pocket.
Currently, pharmacies cannot compete as the government offers medicine at far cheaper prices, Isseyegh said.
“We’re actually competing with the state – a losing battle – and people go to the north for drugs.”
Additionally, there is also a problem that there are way too many pharmacies in Cyprus compared to the population.
“In Cyprus there are 520 pharmacies for 900,000 people.”
Across the EU however figures are far more spread out, she said and this must also be something taken on board as Gesy rolls out, Isseyegh said.