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Greek MPs OK Drug Cost Cuts

genericOver the objections of the major opposition Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA) party that critics said wanted to protect profits for big pharmaceutical companies who provide it financial support, the Greek Parliament has approved cuts in the prices of dozens of state-subsidized medicine.
The legislation put forward by Health Minister Adonis Georgiadis won easily, by a vote of 164-72 with 10 lawmakers not wanting to take a stand and voting present instead. The measure got the backing of all 154 members from the ruling party of New Democracy Conservative leader and Prime Minister Antonis Samaras and his coalition partner, the PASOK Socialists, along with the other 10 votes from independent and Democratic Left (DIMAR) deputies.
SYRIZA, which calls itself a party of the people and is opposed to the government-imposed austerity measures, tried to block reductions in the prices of medicines although Greeks hit by big pay cuts, tax hikes, slashed pensions and frequent strikes by pharmacists have to pay out of pocket or higher prices because doctors aligned with drug companies write prescriptions for brand names instead of generics.
It was, however, SYRIZA’s opposition to Georgiadis’s proposal to cut the price of around 100 “off patent” drugs and some generic medicines that was at the center of furious rows ahead of the ballot.
SYRIZA called for the amendment to be voted on in five separate sections but the government and Parliament Speaker Evangelos Meimarakis accused the leftists of trying to divert attention from voting against benefits for the people.
“You are trying to muddy the waters with procedural matters to cover up the ‘no’ to the reduction of medicine prices,” said New Democracy MP Sofia Voultepsi.
“You are ganging up on SYRIZA because we are an antisystemic opposition party,” responded leftist lawmaker Panayiotis Lafazanis, who claimed the voting procedure was “illegal.”
SYRIZA said it opposed the amendment because it failed to bring down the prices of more expensive drugs and would damage Greek pharmaceutical companies, while benefiting multinational firms.
The party’s stance led to Georgiadis accusing the opposition party of being in the pay of Greek drug firms, citing adverts for such companies on Sto Kokkino, the SYRIZA-affiliated radio station.
Meanwhile, speaking to Kathimerini, National Organization for Medicines (EOF) President Dimitris Lintzeris rubbished claims that generic drugs were unsafe. “Nobody has the right to create doubts in Greek people’s minds about the quality of medicines,” he said. “Checks are carried out at many levels: at factories, at warehouses, on new products, in Greece and abroad.”

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