ATHENS – Greek pharmacies shut down on June 10 to protest government plans to allow Over-the-Counter (OTC) medicines to be sold in markets and other stores.
Greek drug store owners have monopolies and most are closed most of the day, although a rotation insures 24-hour coverage for emergencies. But even simple drugs such as aspirin can only be bought in pharmacies.
The ruling Radical Left SYRIZA is moving to change that although it faces opposition from the previous rulers, the New Democracy Conservatives, who failed to implement the change despite pressure from international lenders who wanted to break the stranglehold pharmacies have.
The Panhellenic Pharmacists’ Association and its President, Constantinos Lourantos, said its members will resist any changes to their monopoly.
He met June 10 with New Democracy’s Makis Voridis, a former health minister and previous foe but they were said to have a consensus on this issue.
“The government has to immediately take back this proposal and insist there is no change as it has been proved that the competition the European Union wants already exists among pharmacies,” said Lourantos.
“The government has a duty to stick by the policy we followed recently with regard to OTCs,” said Voridis.
Current Health Minister Panayiotis Kouroublis told pharmacists they wouldn’t be adversely affected although giving up one of their key benefits.
He said that only some non-prescription medicines would be sold in other stores and only as long as there is approval from the World Health Organization.
Kouroublis said he’s opposed to the bill promoted by his own government and said he was going along only because of demands from international lenders.