Greece's state spending on pharmaceuticals will total no less than 2.8 billion euros this year, despite demands from the European Union (EU), the European Central Bank (ECB) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) that it should spend no more than 2.1 billion euros, Health Minister Andreas Loverdos has said.

Announcing the compromise reached with the EU-ECB-IMF "troika" to industry representatives, he also said that the Health Ministry is aiming for national drug spending next year to total around 3.1 billion euros, according to local reports.

However, the Minister has also warned that the country is still spending too much on unnecessary medicines, with 1 billion euros-worth of unused drugs being thrown away per year. In 2011, when the country's drugs bill totalled 4.1 billion euros - against a target of 3.8 billion euros - doctors were still prescribing more "when they should have been prescribing less," he said. In 2010, Greece's public spending on medicines had soared to 5.6 billion euros.

The crisis is also affecting availability of medicines, with the national pharmacy association reporting that, out of the country’s 500 most widely-used medicines, almost half are in short supply. Public insurance bodies still owe pharmacies around 300 million euros for medicines purchased since last April, it adds.

Meantime, Business Monitor International (BMI) has announced further downward revisions in its growth expectations for the Greek pharmaceutical market this year. 

"It is beyond doubt that drugmakers in Greece - particularly domestic producers primarily exposed to their home market - are faced with the most challenging operating environment in Europe. Our view that Greece's pharmaceutical market is set for a decade of decline remains firmly in play," it says.

BMI estimates that the Greek pharmaceutical market fell 10.1% in local currency terms to 6.48 billion euros in 2011, from 7.20 billion euros in in 2010, and that healthcare spending overall dropped 5.4% from 22.87 billion euros to 21.64 billion euros, a reduction on the forecast which it made in fourth-quarter 2011 because of worsening macroeconomic conditions.