OTC price reduction program flops [p. 4]

Although former health minister Dan Naveh promised 20 months ago an "over-the-counter [OTC] revolution" that would make certain nonprescription drugs available in supermarkets, convenience stores, and other outlets at "much lower prices," medications sold there cost significantly more than at pharmacies, a ministry representative said on Tuesday. A total of 108 types and brands of pain relievers, skin ointments, cough syrups, heartburn remedies and other OTC drugs may now be sold outside pharmacies. So far, 320 businesses around the country have received ministry permission to sell these medications, ministry representative Eli Marom told the Third International Health Policy Conference at Jerusalem's Binyenei Ha'uma. The Israel Pharmacy Association had criticized Naveh and the ministry for the new policy, claiming that they had caved in to pressure from commercial interests and that the easier availability of drugs without a pharmacist's advice would endanger the public's health. Points of sale for these drugs have increased by 25 percent as a result of the new regulations. There are some 1,200 private and health fund pharmacies in Israel. According to Marom, the cost of OTC drugs sold in the newly-authorized outlets is 25% to 60% higher than in pharmacies. The three-day conference, organized by the National Institute for Health Policy and Health Services Research, will close on Wednesday afternoon.