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Greek 'no' vote puts pharma in tricky position

Pharma claims there is no need for concern regarding medicine supply

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The Greek 'no' vote has thrown the country and the EU into turmoil, although the pharmaceutical industry insists there is no reason for concern about the medicines supply.

The Greek people's landslide rejection of the latest bailout offer from its EU and International Monetary Fund lenders - which would have meant continued austerity - makes the country's exit from the Eurozone more likely but not a certainty. 

It has already resulted in the resignation of Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis and politicians around the EU are now scrabbling to organise emergency negotiations to see if an agreement can be found to prevent a default on Greek's debts. 

The impact of the vote is still hard to gauge however and all eyes are now on the European Central Bank to see if it will provide emergency liquidity funding to Greek banks - which are running perilously low on cash - in order to allow them to open for business tomorrow.

From a healthcare perspective, the political firestorm in Greece has raised concerns that pharma companies may start limiting deliveries to Greece, as occurred in 2011 and 2012 when some hospitals started to default on payments for medicines. 

The Hellenic Association of Pharmaceutical Companies (SFEE) insists its members will continue to supply the Greek people during the crisis, although the European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations (EFPIA) warned last week that it was concerned shortages of life-saving medicines could occur in the event of a default on its debts or 'Grexit'.

As of June 2015, multinational pharma firms were owed more than €1.2bn, with the European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations (EFPIA) indicating its members had not received money owed to Greek hospitals and the National Organization for Healthcare Provision (EOPYY) since December 2014, according to analysts at BMI research.

The trade body has suggested that continuing to supply drugs to Greece without payment after a default would conflict with EU competition rules and would need approval from the European Commission.

Measures would also be needed to prevent low-cost medicines flooding out of Greece via parallel trade channels in the event of an exit from the Eurozone, according to EFPIA, and it would be important to prevent other governments in Europe referencing Greek process in their own price-setting procedures.

The SFEE - which represents both Greek and multinational drugmakers - insists it is in "constant and close cooperation with the Ministry of Health, doing everything possible to ensure the smooth and uninterrupted supply of the medicines distribution chain," and has already secured commitments from big pharma companies such as Roche, Novartis and Pfizer to keep supplies coming until at least the end of July.

"It is clear that health and access of Greek patients to medicines and treatments must remain outside the frame of the political climate and far from any political exploitation effort." 

Meanwhile, the Greek government has also imposed new regulations that are impacting the pharma sector, including a requirement for doctors to prescribe a minimum percentage of generic drugs or face censure.  

In a bid to prevent panic-buying and stockpiling, the PanHellenic Medical Association, which represents Greek doctors, issued a statement at the end of June in which it called for its members to prescribe drugs in "a scientific manner and according to the needs of each patient, and not according to any requests for patients drug supply."

Article by
Phil Taylor

6th July 2015

From: Healthcare



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