One of the reasons why medical care is so expensive in Britain and America, I suspect, is the number of doctors is limited in various ways and the training is so long. I have yet not accumulated the evidence I need to prove this and I might be wrong. But I am encouraged by this Bloomberg story from Italy.
Prices for many pharmaceuticals in Britain are quite reasonable, I think, partly because even supermarkets are allowed to sell all that do not require a prescription. But in many parts of the continent, I get the impression that you can only get them from remarkable smart, small pharmacies that charge heavily for rather basic things.
This story from Italy seems to be a case in point whereby by cutting out a requirement for training that is not necessary, prices can be reduced. I suspect the same sort of thing applies to many areas of medicine. Also, in Britain at least, the government limits the number of people who can go to medical courses at university. This automatically reduces the supply of doctors and increases the prices they can charge.
In this Bloomberg story, the Italian government gave permission for a new kind of pharmacy with less qualified staff:
Borgo, the pharmacist on the Venetian island that hosts the city’s film festival this week, took advantage of a law in 2006 that Berlusconi’s party subsequently tried to reverse.
The measure paved the way for “parafarmacie” and required that their managers had graduated at least five years before and worked for two years in a licensed drugstore. They operate alongside pharmacies like paramedics compared with doctors.
“I joined forces with a former pharmacy trainee and two years ago, we opened a parafarmacia on the high street,” Borgo said by telephone. “Today we make enough money to employ a part-time assistant.”
The law increased competition in an industry that has annual sales of 19.2 billion euros in Italy, figures from the pharmaceutical industry group Farmindustria show. Since then, almost 3,500 independent drugstores have been opened, currently employing about 7,000 people, according to the Forum Nazionale Parafarmacie group.
A bill put forward three years ago by Senator Luigi D’Ambrosio Lettieri, a member of Berlusconi’s party in Italy’s Upper Chamber, imposed restrictions on the kind and number of medicines new drugstores like the one opened by Borgo can sell.
Lettieri is the vice president of the pharmacist federation, which opposed the creation of parafarmacie. The law still requires a final vote by both houses after being approved by committees.
“Any previous initiatives by lawmakers to block or reduce the size and the scope of liberalizations and restoring old privileges will come to an halt in the light of the government’s” new measures, Catricala said. Those initiatives “won’t be politically compatible any longer,” he added.
On Lido, it’s no surprise Borgo, a mother-of-four who graduated in 1994 and worked first as a researcher for what became GlaxoSmithKline Plc (GSK), Europe’s largest drugmaker, has made some enemies in the last three years, she said.
Resistance to change “can be worse than any legal obstacles,” said Borgo.
Full story on Bloomberg here.