STAFF REPORTER THE pharmaceutical industry in the Balearics fired a warning shot against Central Government's bows yesterday by saying that if Madrid goes ahead and implements its austerity measures to cut the national deficit, job losses in regional pharmacist businesses could be anything between 15 and 20 percent of the workforce.

Antonio Real, President of the Balearic College of Pharmacists, calculated that with the economic crisis as it stands, the industry had reckoned with losing 100 of the 2'000 jobs which it maintains in the Islands, but when Central Government's cuts are introduced, this figure will need to go up to between 400 and 500.

Real explained that it wasn't just a question of less jobs for pharmacists, the knock-on effect will also hurt shop assistants and the distribution network.

However, Real said that the situation in the Balearics is not forecast to be as bad as it may be on the mainland. The success of the industry in the rest of Spain depends more on residents who are signed up to the national health service than in the Islands where there are other forms of income, such as the tourist community and private medicine.

The President remarked that the problem is rooted in the fact that a recent fall in the cost of pharmaceutical items has been as much as 30 percent, a decline he described as “spine chilling.” Real said that a stand needs to be taken against the price reduction policy which, he said, is akin to “firing a missile” at the industry. He however ruled out mass demonstrations due to the current critical state of the nation.