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Thousands protest healthcare cuts in Spain

March in Madrid to oppose plans for increased privatisation

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Ten thousand people, including many healthcare workers, took to the streets of Madrid on Sunday to protest healthcare austerity measures and privatisation efforts planned by the Spanish government.

The protestors marched from separate hospitals to convene in the city centre, with many objecting to the regional government's intention to privatise several nationally owned facilities in order to cut down on healthcare spending.

According to the Associated Press, plans include converting a hospital specialising in rare and infectious diseases into an old people's home and then selling it.

Spain has been one of the hardest hit countries during the ongoing economic downturn in Europe, and Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy's right wing government has introduced several measures to cut national spending by €150bn by 2014, with healthcare taking much of the brunt.

These plans have received much criticism from the Spanish people, however, with many public workers voicing their concerns during the latest protest.

Gastroenterologist Daniel Domingo, spoke of the impact cuts have on patients being able to access medicines.

He told the Associated Press: "Cuts are visible in the pharmacy supplies. Certain sick people must now clamour to get treated."

Spain's economic woes have hit pharma hard too. In the twelve months to July 2012 pharmaceutical expenditure fell 24 per cent after the introduction of cost-containment measures that included a co-payment measure of 10 per cent for pensioners, a €1 fee paid by every patient for each prescription drug and mandatory use of generic medicines.

The inability of some Spanish hospitals to pay for medicines has also had a direct effect on some pharma companies, with Roche suspending sales of drugs on credit to several hospitals in Spain and Portugal that are behind on existing payments, while Lilly has also said it has experienced payment delays from healthcare systems in both Spain and Italy.

Meanwhile, the situation in Spain is set to worsen for the industry, with the Spanish Ministry of Health declaring it intends to make a 15 per cent saving in pharma expenditure by the end of 2012. 

19th November 2012

From: Healthcare

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