More and more Greeks buy their medication on credit to the pharmacy, repay the debt amount in installments, due to financial difficulties. According to the Pharmacies Association of Greece’s second biggest city Thessaloniki (FAT), at least 50-100 citizens per pharmacy claim to receive their medicines on credit.
The debts of the broke Greeks in need of medication range € 10 to € 400. In many cases the average time for debt repayment is up to three months or six months. However, there are also cases, where the debts go back to three years.
As the president of the FAT, Kyriakos Theodosiadis, notes quite a number of pharmacies make installments of 50 to 100 euros possible. Pharmacists often ask their clients to pay installments in whatever amount they can, even 3 or 5e euro, so that they will not disappear.
“Some clients indeed never return to the pharmacy out of shame that they cannot pay their debts. They seek a new pharmacy to get their medication and open a new debt cycle,” Theodosiadis said adding that when the debt exceeds €200 , the debtor normally does not respond. “Some pay per credit card, but this is not a solution, because they carry the problem form the pharmacy to the bank,” the FAT president stressed.
It is the economic tightness that forces pensioners, unemployed and part-timers to buy medication on credit. they wait for the last or first days of the month, when they get their pension, salary of unemployment allowance to pay their debt to the pharmacy.
Due to the so-called ‘reforms’ in the health sector in 2012, a series of drugs are not covered anymore by the social security fund. Among them are antibiotics, drugs for winter cold, anti-cough syrups – the list is long and I cannot put it here. At the same time, the increase of high self-participation by the insured in the medicine purchase makes often access to medication impossible.
“For example, for a cardiotonic with commercial value €1.42 euros, the insured patient pays €1.32 euros and the EOPYY [National Insurance Fund] just €0.06 euros. Also, for the well-known Lexotanil, the insured pays the entire amount of €1.88. One has to add 1 euro per prescription,” Theodosiadis said.
Often another 10 euro has to be paid by the patient, if the doctor has reached the number of appointments within a month.
I remember, my father, a pensioner, used to take one medication, for which he paid €21 and th EOPYY just €11.
“In its attempt to reduce the cost of pharmaceutical care, the government has not abolished the 1 euro per prescription yet. In addition, with the so-called reference price that changes in regular intervals, “the percentage of self-participation of insured persons has increased to 35% in the average, while it was 11% in 2010,” the FAT president said.
Conclusion is that many patients do not go to the doctor for a prescription at all. Because in the end, they pay less when they purchase the drug directly from the pharmacy and not through a prescription.
“We are talking mainly about pensioners and seniors with low-incomer who are in need of these medication,” Theodosiadis underlined.
The ‘health reform’ in 2012 had the effect of skyrocketing of self-participation of insured patients in the medication purchase. Chronic-ill were not excepted. In the peak of the economic crisis, low-income elderly and pensioners were forced to cut in medication as they could not afford it. For some the dilemma was buy the medication or eat. I remember older reports by KTG, where the local pharmacists was telling me that people would not take an x-pill on a daily basis as the doctor had prescribed but every second or third day.
For the chronic-ill mother of a friend, the health care cost all of a sudden skyrocketed to €80 per month. The woman was receiving a pension of below 500 euro gross.
The whole point for this humanitarian disaster was that the German team of the EU Task Force, had advised the Greek Health Ministry of Samaras government on how to reform the state expenditure for medication. However, neither did the EU Task Force make any feed back or follow up control, nor did the health ministry take into account ‘income criteria’ for the self-participation as in Germany, for example.
I often saw elderly neighbor in tears because they suddenly had realized that they cannot afford their drugs anymore.busting into tears
The only good thing of the reform was that drug prices fell, sometimes even at 50%. But this did not help the poor and the needy who had to pay with money they did not have.