Reimbursement system proposed for free medicine
Move would greatly reduce wastage, chamber believes
A system under which patients pay for free medicines and are then reimbursed by the government would drastically reduce wastage, the Chamber of Commerce, Enterprise and Industry believes.
Reginald Fava, who chairs the chamber's healthcare business sector and its group of importers, distributors and retailers, said the creation of such a system would cut by half the amount of medicines collected for free by patients from pharmacies.
He yesterday told The Times the chamber was expected to make this recommendation to the government.
Mr Fava also revealed it was the chamber that had asked Social Policy Minister John Dalli to stop the Pharmacy of Your Choice scheme to carry out a proper stock take and rethink the way it was operated.
"It was very responsible to stop it," he said.
The scheme, which allows patients to pick up the medicines they are entitled to from their chosen private pharmacy instead of from a government pharmacy, was introduced last year in some localities. But the roll-out across the country was stopped in July 2008 so it could be evaluated.
"We are in favour of the system and will support it and want it to function in the best interests of patients," Mr Fava said, adding the chamber had not been consulted before the scheme was introduced.
Under the chamber's proposal, the government would no longer buy medicines but pass this role on to the pharmacies.
The government would establish how much it would be reimbursing for each medicine. This would have to be a realistic price found on the market, Mr Fava said.
However, the system would make an allowance for those patients who could not afford to pay up front for their medicines and wait to be reimbursed. These would be identified and would still receive their medicine, he explained.
On the other hand, patients who wanted to choose more expensive products could do so and pay the difference themselves.
He was certain this system would reduce wastage since patients would think twice before paying for a medicine they did not need, even if they were going to be reimbursed.
Some patients took medicines even if they did not need them since they were entitled to them for free, leading to hoarding and wastage.
Pharmacist Marisa Dalli, a chamber member who has adopted the POYC, said: "Relatives sometimes come back with a bagful of medicines after someone dies."
In the 1996-1998 legislature, the then Labour government had introduced a much criticised €1.16 (Lm0.50) fee on each prescription. Mr Fava said this acted as a deterrent against wastage and should not only have been retained but increased.
Last September a Church commission also proposed that the government should charge a nominal fee on medicines currently distributed for free.