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European Union

Greek debt crisis will not affect supply of medicines, pharmaceutical companies say

Multinational pharmaceutical companies have vowed to continue their supply of medicines to Greece, but there are other potential problems if the country leaves the eurozone.

The pharmaceutical industry has vowed to continue its supply of medicines to Greece, but there are other potential problems if the country leaves the eurozone. In the image, protesters march down the streets of Athens

Source: De Visu / Shutterstock.com

Greece will be holding a referendum on 5 July 2015 on its creditors’ proposals, which is being seen as a vote on Greece’s membership of the eurozone

Pharmaceutical companies will provide a constant supply of medicines to the people of Greece through the financial crisis, according to the Hellenic Association of Pharmaceutical Companies (SFEE), which represents subsidiaries of multinational and Greek companies.

The Greek government has imposed capital controls and there is a planned referendum on 5 July 2015 on creditors’ proposals, which is being seen as a vote on Greece’s membership of the eurozone.

“Companies have made a commitment to make the same adequate supplies of medicines,” says Natalia Toubanaki, communications director for the SFEE, whose members include GlaxoSmithKline, Pfizer, Bristol Myers Squibb, Novartis and Roche.

The government owes the pharmaceutical industry €1.05bn and no payments have been made since December 2014.

“We are talking daily with EOF [the medicines regulator] about any [possible] malfunction in the market,” Toubanaki told The Pharmaceutical Journal on 1 July 2015. “Health needs to be left out of the [austerity debate] in the next few days; we need to make sure supplies continue.”

However, should the country leave the eurozone, SFEE would like to see the introduction of export bans, so medicines cannot be traded out of the country.

“The first priority [would be] a ban of exports to ensure an adequate supply of medicines for Greece to prevent parallel exports,” she says.

The European pharmaceutical industry association, EFPIA, has also warned the European Commission about the risk of drug shortages in Greece should the country leave the eurozone because there would be an increased incentive for drugs to be exported to other countries through traders playing on price arbitrage.

The industry is also concerned that the practice of international price referencing, whereby one country will refer to another when deciding on its own drug prices, will see Greece’s lowered drug prices driving prices down in other countries.

Dimitris Karageorgiou, a spokesperson for the PanHellenic Pharmaceutical Association, which represents pharmacists, says at the moment Greece is seeing its “normal, everyday shortages” but there is a “real risk” medicines will flow out of the country if Greece leaves the eurozone. The country has 10,500 pharmacies, which have been closed during strikes held in opposition to austerity measures in the past.

“Nobody can afford to pay for their medicines. There is no more credit. No one can afford to buy medicines from wholesalers or pharmaceutical manufacturers,” Karageorgiou adds.

In a statement dated 29 June 2015, the Panhellenic Medical Association, which represents doctors, urged its members to prescribe in a scientific manner and according to the needs of each patient and not in response to requests for additional supplies, which could create problems for patients in need.

Citation: The Pharmaceutical Journal DOI: 10.1211/PJ.2015.20068867

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