BEIRUT: The Order of Pharmacists rejected Monday Health Minister Wael Abu Faour’s decision to slash by up to 24 percent pharmacists’ service fees on medicine sales, calling on the government to instead provide free medical treatment for the poor.
“We will not agree to touching the pharmacist’s service fees ... The state must apply laws to protect citizens,” the order’s head Rabih Hassouna told a news conference.
Speaking to The Daily Star by phone, Hassouna said the proposed cuts in the pharmacists’ service fees range from 1 percent to 24 percent, depending on the price of medicine.
Asked whether pharmacists would abide by Abu Faour’s decision, he said: “There is nothing final yet. We will have a meeting with the health minister tomorrow [Tuesday] to try to reach a compromise solution over the service fees.”
Hassouna said the protection of citizens and pharmacists can be attained through the application of laws and laying the foundation for “a healthy drug vision that can secure free treatment for the poor while showing strictness on the quality of medicine.”
He said pharmacists would not accept to be “scapegoats” in the health minister’s latest decision to reduce prices of some medicines.
“The Order of Pharmacists and all pharmacies in Lebanon support a strict implementation of the clinics’ law in order to protect the patient’s health and pocket. The pharmacists are ready to organize this sector for the benefit of the society,” Hassouna said at the news conference.
He slammed the violations of laws and the random establishment of clinics without supervision of the quality and price of medicine.
Earlier this month, Abu Faour announced reductions of prices of a new batch of medicines by an average of 17 percent. He said the reductions would affect 261 medicines. The decision came a month after Abu Faour announced a 20 percent reduction in the prices of 629 medicines. Abu Faour warned pharmacies, hospitals, pharmaceutical companies and depots against breaching the decision or objecting to it.
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on April 29, 2014, on page 4.