Envoys representing Greece’s foreign creditors have insisted on the immediate liberalization of the market for nonprescription drugs, calling for supermarkets to be allowed to start stocking such medicines so that prices can start falling.
During a meeting on Thursday between Health Minister Andreas Lykourentzos, the European Commission’s mission chief in Athens, Matthias Mors, and other representatives from both sides, the issue of deregulating nonprescription medicines was raised once again, with troika officials arguing that the measure would help drive down the price of drugs, currently very high as the profit margins of pharmacists and their wholesalers are factored in. Bringing other types of stores into the market would make the drugs more accessible to cash-strapped Greeks and boost competitiveness, according to the troika. Ministry officials reportedly countered that such a move would put many of the country’s 11,000 pharmacies at risk of closure while the increased accessibility of medicines could pose a public health risk and lead to overconsumption. During the meeting, officials also discussed the issue of overdue debts of the National Organization for Healthcare Provision (EOPYY) and state hospitals to pharmacists. The debts – totaling 2 billion euros and 1.4 billion euros respectively – are to be settled by the end of June at the latest by the Finance Ministry, sources said. Lykourentzos has reportedly made an application to the Administrative Reform Ministry, which is overseeing an overhaul of the civil service, to approve the recruitment of doctors and nurses to fill vacancies at state hospitals.