Wholesale drug suppliers, pharmacists warn of 6.5 bn kuna debt

NEWS 24.03.2021 17:44
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Source: Nikola Čutuk/Pixsell / ilustracija

Wholesale drug suppliers, pharmacists, and drug producers in the Croatian Employers' Association said on Wednesday that pharmacies could soon be faced with a shortage of drugs due to the debt of 6.5 billion kuna by hospitals for delivered medicines and the Health Insurance Fund's overdue payments.

Despite requests, a meeting with the competent authorities did not eventuate nor has a solution for the debt been proposed. If an urgent solution is not found drug supplies could be critically limited, a press conference heard on Wednesday.

Debt higher than 4% of state budget

The total debt has reached 6.5 billion kuna and in the period from December to the end of February it increased by 900 million kuna. The Croatian Health Insurance Fund (HZZO) stopped paying pharmacies in mid-January and as many as 20% of hospitals have stopped paying for medicines since the start of the year. Those institutions that are owned by the state actually violate the law by overdue payments.

The debt for medicines and medicinal products accounts for more than 4% of the state budget, it was underscored.

“The fact that the debt has doubled has compelled us to launch protective mechanisms and place every day a new hospital in special regime for drug deliveries and medical products. Currently there are 22 and we expect that by the start of April that model could be applied to the majority of hospitals,” president of a coordination of wholesalers with the employers’ association (HUP),  Diana Percac said.

The health system is functioning with a limited capacity and we are calling for the debt to be urgently settled for drugs that have already been delivered, otherwise, wholesalers will be compelled to sue hospitals and block them, she added.

HUP president Mihael Furjan said that currently the consumption of medicines has decreased and the sale of generic medicines has contracted by 15%, oncology medication by 15 to 20% and a significant fall in medicines for respiratory diseases and antibiotics has been recorded and the pharmaceutical business is at risk of tight cash flow.

Iliquidity has occurred because the of the lack of payments by the state. The state has to urgently talk with us and offer a long term solution, said Furjan.

Head of HUP’s association of pharmacists, Ante Mandic, underscored that the payment deadline of 70-80 days doubled last year to 160 days and the debt to pharmacies has increased to a total of HRK 1.7 billion, which could lead to numerous pharmacies going bankrupt.

Head of HUP’s association of drug producers, Jerko Jaksic, said that there are more than 5,000 employees and 10,000 suppliers who are affected by this situation and added that Croatia was one of the few countries that had no problem with medical supplies during the COVID crisis.

(€1 = HRK 7.5)

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