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Selling medicines in supermarkets would bring losses of over 500 million euro to pharmacists

10 June 2015 / 18:06:04  GRReporter
2195 reads

Maria S. Topalova
Photos and video - Nikos Kakonas
    One of the classic examples of the Greek clientelist state is the pharmaceutical sector - a closed profession that allows neither a sole pharmacist from Bulgaria, for example, nor the big chain Boots to open their own pharmacies in Greece. The state regulates the number of pharmacies per capita, their opening hours, the price of medicines and succession of licences. Any attempt to liberalize the profession ends with large-scale protests and its opening to the market is postponed for another time. There was a small breakthrough last year when a limited number of pharmacies with a special status and free opening hours were allowed to exist.
    Today the situation is the same. One of the reforms that the government of Alexis Tsipras is planning to make is, after 1 January 2016, to allow supermarkets to sell medicines the purchase of which does not require a prescription and to liberate the wholesale and retail prices in the sector. The annual turnover from these medicines in Greece amounts to around 1.6 billion euro. Financial and medical experts have estimated that the measure will lead to a decline in turnover of pharmacies by about 30%, i.e. by at least 500 million euro. An amount that is sufficiently high to explain today's strike by pharmacists.
    "Medicines in Greece are among the cheapest in the European Union, they cannot become cheaper. Liberalizing their prices and arranging them on supermarket shelves will make them expensive," said Konstantinos Lourandos, president of the Hellenic Pharmaceutical Federation. At a press conference, he cited a report by the World Health Organization, according to which the prices of medicines have increased in all countries that have proceeded to this measure.

    Konstantinos Lourandos referred to a study showing that 85% of Greeks visit the same pharmacy in the neighbourhood in which they live. 93% are satisfied with the services in pharmacies. 67% of respondents define pharmacists as scientists and only 23% as merchants. He said that 10,800 pharmacies are operating in Greece, each of which is serving approximately 950 citizens. According to him, all have access to a pharmacy and there is no need to sell conventional medicines in supermarkets. "It will be to the detriment of citizens too, because they will become a victim of advertising and buy unnecessary and even dangerous amounts of medicines," he said.
    At the press conference reporters tried to ask Konstantinos Lourandos why pharmacists are so afraid of competition and market liberalization and the result was as follows:

    The issue has a purely political side. At the last elections the pharmaceutical sector decided to vote for the Coalition of Radical Left SYRIZA that currently is in power and wants to liberalize wholesale and retail prices of medicines. Konstantinos Lourandos openly talked about stealing of votes. Passions ran high yesterday when he visited the headquarters of now opposition party New Democracy and met with former Minister of Health Makis Voridis and party spokesman Kostas Karagounis. "I am the president of the branch federation. My job is to meet with representatives of political parties to inform them about our problems and to be informed of their position," Lourandos replied to his critics.

Tags: Strike pharmaciesLiberalization of wholesale and retail prices of medicinesMedicines in supermarketsClosed professionClientelist state
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