ATHENS – Greek pharmacies handle 65 million prescriptions and 200 million packages of medicine a year, far more than those in other European Union countries, the agency charged with providing health care said.
Greek doctors also issue 100 million referrals for medical tests annually, driving up the country’s costs to provide health care, said Greece’s health insurer EOPYY, and the European Healthcare Fraud and Corruption Network, EHFCN.
The number of prescriptions issued in Greece are virtually at the same level as those in Spain, which has a population five times the size of Greece’s.
As for CAT and MRI scans, more than 1.5 million referrals were issued in Greece over the last year – twice the average rate in Western European countries. It’s common in Greece for doctors to refer patients for expensive MRI’s to clinics with which the physicians are aligned.
Greece, under pressure from international lenders, has been working to cut health care costs, although critics said the aim has been off and targeted essential services as well as those which aren’t needed.
The enforcement of new guidelines for health professionals resulted in a 25 percent reduction in the number of referrals for CAT and MRI scans last month while the amount by which spending on prescription medicines was overshot dropped by 71.5 percent in October.
The figures were released by EOPYY Chairman Dimitris Kontos and EHFCN executive Paul Vincke, ahead of the EHFCN’s 10th conference, which starts in Athens on Nov. 6.
In a related development, Health Minister Makis Voridis said the budget for state hospitals would be trimmed next year by 160 million euros, to 1.61 billion euros from 1.45 billion euros.