By June 17, 440 million euros of funding will have been released to cover hospital and medicine costs, caretaker Health Minister Christos Kittas said on Wednesday, as hundreds of Greeks continued to queue for drugs that pharmacists are refusing to provide on credit. Kittas said 310 million euros would be given to the National Organization for Healthcare Provision (EOPYY), which is responsible for providing healthcare to some 9 million people, while another 130 million euros would go to public hospitals, which have had trouble paying their suppliers. “We have to put people - patients and those around them - above all,” said Kittas. Although the release of the money will help EOPYY settle an outstanding bill for medicines provided by pharmacists to patients insured with the fund, it is not clear if it will provide a solution for Greeks trying to get hold of expensive drugs such as cancer medication. Pharmacists have so far received 200 million euros for medicines provided on credit this year but are still owed 70 million from March.
They have vowed to continue refusing to provide drugs on credit until EOPYY settles its account in total. Kittas denied that he was withholding the final payment until the pharmacists back down. “I do not engage in party politics or bartering with others,” he said. “I am here for a month and will not change my beliefs.” Hundreds of people continued to queue for medicines at state-run pharmacies yesterday and Kittas suggested that 150 private pharmacies could help provide some of the drugs being demanded.
This proposal was rejected by pharmacists, who have seen pharmaceutical companies gradually reduce the supply of drugs available on the Greek market since 2010. As a result, shortages of some 170 medicines have been recorded. Greece has also introduced an electronic prescription system to cut back on waste and corruption in the sector. About half of prescriptions are now issued electronically. Almost 11,000 pharmacists and more than 37,500 doctors are using the scheme.