Reference is made to the article entitled ‘Reimbursement system proposed for free medicines’ (Times pg.3, August 11).

This article is filled with misinterpretation of facts and is certainly a disservice to readers, and more importantly, to patients and pharmacists who have the good of the community at heart.

The article quotes Mr. Fava as saying that the Chamber of Commerce stopped the national roll-out. This is an incorrect portrayal of the facts, borne out by his later statement as he later admits that his organisation was not consulted in any way on the POYC implementation.

The truth, as anyone involved in the system knows it to be, is that at the time, it was the Malta Chamber of Pharmacists and the GRTU – Pharmacy Section in the July 2008 sitting of the POYC Standing Advisory Committee that requested that this phase of the project be implemented and move to the assessment of the project according to the Tripartite Agreement signed by the Chamber of Pharmacists, the GRTU and Government in July 2007.

This does not mean that the two organisations are not disappointed that Government has taken so long to modify the system and continue the roll-out. The problems that prevented a speedier rollout are not the GRTU’s or Chamber of Pharmacists’ problems, but they mainly stem from the fact that Government dragged its feet in committing manpower and resources to the scheme. This is besides the fact that Government ignored the one to one consultations carried out by both organisations and did its own assessment unilaterally.

The proposed introduction of a national reimbursement system for medicines is not a novelty. Both the Chamber of Pharmacists and the GRTU have been discussing it with Government for nigh on twenty years now. In fact, there is a specific provision in the Tripartite agreement on POYC agreed to by the three parties in July 2007. Whether Government introduces a reimbursement system or some other system is not the sole prerogative of the Government, but has to be done in agreement with ALL parties involved.

The agreement stipulates that Government would initiate a dialogue with the other two partners, Malta Chamber of Pharmacists and GRTU, with the involvement of the representatives of the importers (whoever these may be) at the appropriate stage.

There was a specific timeline for these discussions to start and both the Chamber of Pharmacists and the GRTU have long been ready to start discussions with Government. Again it is only Government that is dragging its feet on this matter.
It is therefore during these discussions on reimbursement that the Chamber of Commerce, amongst other bodies representing importers, could be participating if they so wish.

It must be pointed out for umpteenth time that the Chamber of Commerce is not the Chamber of Pharmacists (and please do not refer to it as ‘the Chamber’, as not to confuse readers). There is only one professional Chamber representing the pharmacy profession and that is the Malta Chamber of Pharmacists.

The Chamber of Commerce does not represent the majority of owners of private pharmacies or pharmacists employed in these professional offices. Both GRTU and the Chamber of Pharmacists do.

It is therefore very strange that the Times has the contact numbers of both the Chamber of Pharmacists president and that of the GRTU pharmacy section president and it chooses to publish an article like this without consulting these officials, with the end result being that such an article will lead to erroneous conclusions being drawn by your readers. Truly, we expected better.

Joint Press Release issued by

Mary Ann Sant Fournier, President, Malta Chamber of Pharmacists
Mario Debono, President, GRTU – Pharmacy Section