Greece has reportedly dropped plans to claw back revenues from the pharmaceutical industry as a way of covering the country's outpatient drug overspend, which has already reached 250 million euros so far this year.

An automatic clawback system of rebates on drugmakers' turnover, aimed at guaranteeing that outpatient drug spending did not exceed budget limits, had been proposed as part of a package of measures seeking to slice 1 billion euros off Greece's drugs bill for this year. The proposal has been fiercely opposed by manufacturers, which have protested to the Council of State and warned that the move would be "a step too far across the line and contrary to the rule of law." 

Industry group the Hellenic Association of Pharmaceutical Companies (SFEE) also points out that the government already owes drugmakers around 2 billion euros in unpaid bills, plus a further 1 billion euros resulting from the "haircut" on government bonds.

Consequently, Greece's "troika" of creditors - the European Central Bank (ECB), the European Union (EU) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) - have now put forward new requirements to cover the country's massive overspend on outpatient prescription drugs, ahead of the next round of bailout funding. These are reported to include tougher monitoring of prescriptions, possibly leading to cost ceilings per prescriber, and moves to speed the market entry of generic drugs.

Also, the delayed new drug price bulletin - it was due to be introduced in September - will now come into effect on October 22 and is expected to produce savings of at least 300 million euros a year, according to government officials. It is anticipated that the list will contain fewer patent-expired drugs but also that a number of innovative new medicines, including some cancer treatments, whose inclusion had been expected will not now appear on the list.

And on October 1, a new measure was introduced which requires doctors to prescribe medicines by generic name only, and for patients to pay a higher contribution to the drug's cost if they are unwilling to accept the cheapest version available. The Health Ministry has said that the move will boost the use of generics and save around 150 million euros a year, but critics point to the reluctance of consumers to accept generic rather than branded drugs, and of doctors to prescribe them.

Meantime, SFEE president Konstantinos Frouzis has called for a “stability pact” between the Greek government and the pharmaceutical industry.

Speaking after meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel this month, Mr Frouzis said the industry is “willing and ready to support the government’s efforts towards growth, through such structural pillars of the pharmaceutical industry as investment in research and through our crucial contribution to output and employment."

In order to fulfil this role, he stressed the need to address the industry's losses resulting from unpaid bills and government bonds, also market liquidity and the financing of the EOPYY, the national organisation for healthcare.

"The government and the pharmaceutical industry should and could agree on a stability pact for the coming years, enabling a comprehensive approach and aiming to support the government in its effort to meet its targets and achieve recovery of the Greek economy. On the other side, the industry should ensure its viability in a more predictable healthcare environment," said Mr Frouzis.

This would, he suggested, be "a worthwhile effort, as it will ensure Greek citizens' healthcare and access to innovative treatments, while at the same time safeguarding social cohesion."