This week is Symposium week at the Old University in Valletta. Please take the opportunity to attend and support the undergraduate and Master students in their efforts.
Follow the link below for the full programme:
Sunday, 6 March 2011
In reply to the Editor of The Times of Malta
I have always turned to your newspaper as a source of fair, balanced and well-researched information. It is thus with dismay that I read your editorial of the 1st day of this month, and it is with much chagrin that I pen this risposte. As a practicing pharmacist professional, pharmacy owner and also a researcher in the field of local medicine prices and the various factors influencing their levels, I take exception to the manner in which the subject has been addressed and also the manner in which all actors within the highly complex scenario have been caricatured.
Firstly, your editorial states that ‘exorbitant prices’ are the norm, and in some cases two or three times those of other EU countries. I would like to draw your attention to the fact that cross-country comparisons cannot be taken at face-value. In some countries, such as Italy, local councils put aside part of their annual budget to subsidise medicine prices within their area, a fact that some locals here in Malta, take advantage of. Others, such as Belgium, operate a system of co-payment, whereby patients pay a percentage of the purchase price, with the remainder of the cost being borne by the state.
Secondly, the concept of Purchasing Power Parity(PPP) must be taken into consideration. A Euro is not worth the same across all the Euro Zone countries, but rather, adjustments must be made fore the varying cost of living in each country.
Thirdly, no transparent and consistent tool presently exists to measure medicine prices in Malta, and enable realistic inter-country comparisons. Ongoing research under the auspices of the Pharmacoeconmics Section of the Pharmacy Department of the University of Malta, indicates that medicine prices have actually increased at a rate that is substantially lower than that of the general cost of living. It is intended to further develop this field of work and come up with a functional and reliable medicine price monitoring tool.
Even though I would rather not have to reply to unsubstantiated and ill-researched allegations regarding a subject that is, as correctly stated by yourself ‘ xx’, your editorial will hopefully be the stimulus for factual and reasoned discussion on the prices of pharmaceuticals in Malta. There is much to be addressed, and advancement will only be achieved if all of us involved within the field of healthcare and beyond, pool our resources to develop methods and policies for price monitoring and regulation, rather than attempt to generate sensational headlines by means of wide-ranging and generic statements about a complex and sensitive issue.
In view of the events of the last weeks, and also various other occasions in the past, it is my opinion that we, as professional pharmacists, have arrived to a cross-roads. Whether we hail from community or hospital settings, industry, medical detailing, academia, or in many cases, a mixture of a number of these fields of specialization, it is time that we put aside our differences and provide a common front to the serious allegations being levelled at our profession.
Our integrity has been called into question, unfortunately by members of a related healthcare field. Such issues cannot go answered, as not only a comprehensive denial is required but also a public statement of affairs and unified and official representations both to the source of the allegations and also to the general population. Anything less will be construed as acceptance of the matters alleged as fact. What is all the more worrying is that public opinion is well against us, as a cursory glance at web-blogs to the various newspapers reveal. This leaves us open to attack from all sides of the political spectrum, and this can be ill-afforded, especially in view of the upcoming renegotiation of our partial integration into the primary healthcare system.
Whether we come together now, in the face of adversity, will define our own future and also that of pharmacists in the making. We can either shape our own destiny and finally position ourselves as respected and equal partners with other healthcare professionals within the private and primary healthcare systems, or we can go on doing a very good job of self-destructing by means of continual bickering and internal warring.
I, for one, have erred in the past by putting personal ideology before that beneficial to the general good. Many of us, in efforts to get the ball rolling, have formed or associated with various entities. The time has come for all of us to re-evaluate our positions and find common ground, whether under one existing entity, or as a grouping of various associations. Easier said than done, but it is the only way to ensure the survival of our profession as an independent one, and answerable only directly to the competent authorities. It is both our professional, and also moral obligation, to ensure fair and equitable representation for all pharmacists within the society which we humbly serve.
In concluding, I would like to paraphrase Benjamin Franklin, who at a crucial moment in the American Revolution stated very accurately : ‘ We must hang together, (gentlemen)…..else we shall most assuredly hang separately’.