Around 50 pharmaceutical companies are reported to have launched objections to the prices allocated to their products in the new drug price bulletin published by the Greek government on September 6.

The new list includes price cuts averaging 20% on products which account for 97% of the Greek national drugs bill. According to the Ministry of Economy, Competitiveness and Shipping, each of the 50 or so companies have opposed the new prices of no more than five of their drugs; however, GlaxoSmithKline has said that it is challenging the price cuts imposed on around 30% of its products.

Industry spokesmen are concerned at the implications of the Greek cuts for pricing throughout the rest of Europe, given that a number of other European Union (EU) nations use Greece as a reference market in their price-setting.

The drug repricing initiative, which has been achieved through implementation of Article 14 of Law 3840/March 2010, is “a very harsh measure,” says the Panhellenic Association of Pharmaceutical Companies (SFEE). However, it will, simultaneously, “ensure the smooth operation of the market, the availability of medicinal products and the direct access of all treatments for patients,” the industry group adds.

“This solution is acceptable due to the fiscal situation our country is facing and will be until the IT infrastructure of the health system is fully completed,” says SFEE.

The government has now also published a list of 89 innovative and high-cost drugs previously only supplied by hospitals which are now to be made available through pharmacies. The retail prices of these drugs will be reduced by 10.41% for patients obtaining them through pharmacies, enabled though a reduction in wholesalers’ margins from 7.7% to 2.5% and pharmacy margins being cut from 35% to 18%.

The change has been made in order to contain costs, as the drugs will now be subject to electronic prescription monitoring, which should go a long way towards beating the corruption which has long surrounded the procurement and distribution of high-cost drugs in the hospital sector.  Critics claim that hospitals constitute the most corrupted sector of the nation’s public services, with demands for bribes preventing some patients from getting the treatment they need. The anti-corruption watchdog Transparency International (TI) has estimated that over 13% of the Greek population resorted to bribery in 2008, with most of the $1 billion-plus spent on bribes going to hospitals.

However, some pharmacists are refusing to stock and supply the hospital drugs because of financial problems caused by delays in receiving reimbursement from health insurers, it is reported. Pharmacists also say that there are now shortages of a number of medicines, and that this is due to an increase in parallel exporting activity caused by the new pricing regime.

The full list of the 89 drugs is available from the Panhellenic Association of Pharmacists.