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Parliament passes drug legislation package

Parliament passed on Monday amendments to drug legislation which will allow sales of some over-the-counter drugs outside of pharmacies, require drugmakers and drug importers to pay back to the state part of the subsidies on their products and introduce looser rules for opening pharmacies.

The legislative package was passed with a vote of 195 ayes, 160 nays and one abstention. The law allows some OTC drugs to be sold in supermarkets and petrol stations. It will require drugmakers and drug importers to pay a percentage of the subsidized part of drugs which carry a fixed subsidy and a part of the subsidized part of drugs which carry a proportional subsidy. Drugmakers or importers selling a product at a price lower than the one at which the respective fixed-rate subsidy is based for at least for three years will be exempt from the payment. Wholesale drug sellers will have to pay 1% of the wholesale price margin on their yearly subsidized drug sales. Producers will have to pay a one-off licence fee of Ft 5 million for each new drug sales representative they employ.

Under the law, no drug will be entirely subsidized with the exception of those prescribed for the poor and chronically ill. The minimum price prescription drugs will be Ft 300. Poor households, however, would be offered compensation, in line with EU practice. The law also loosens rules on setting up pharmacies, allowing them to be located closer together, and no longer requiring majority ownership by a licensed pharmacist. The law prohibits the sale of drugs to children under 14. It also prohibits pharmacies from accepting drugs as gifts from producers. The legislation includes support measures for smaller pharmacies in villages and towns paid for by larger pharmacies. Revenue for these subsidies will come from levying a special contribution of 0.5%-2% of annual pharmacy price margins. The law also regulates how doctors can prescribe drugs. The health fund will have the right to sanction doctors who prescribe more expensive drugs containing the same active ingredient without any special reason. Regulations on subsidies will change too. Some drugs will be subsidized less (their price will change too), and preference will be shown for the rapid inclusion of generic products on the list of subsidized drugs. (Mti-Eco)