The provision of pharmaceutical care in Greece is now at breaking point, and the blame lies with the Health Ministry, according to the national pharmaceutical industry association.

The Hellenic Association of Pharmaceutical Companies (SFEE), which represents 29 Greek drugmakers and 38 multinationals, has slammed the Ministry for its "continued failure to correct mistakes which have occurred repeatedly and in breach of the applicable legislation – the most striking example of such mistakes included in the recently-issued Price Bulletin - and to allocate reasonably and fairly the funds available for the payment of arrears, so as to safeguard the smooth operation and survival of pharmaceutical companies."

In an announcement made after the association's annual meeting, SFEE reported that pharmaceutical companies are the only sector that has not received "a single euro" from the state-run health insurer, the National Organisation for Healthcare Provision (EOPYY), or from public hospitals for the last two years, even though the relevant funds have already been disbursed.

With arrears now totalling 2 billion euros and a loss of 1 billion euros as a result of the PSI (private sector involvement), many companies are now unable to import products, and are having to adjust their business plans "again and again" or face a risk of collapse, it says.

Also, since December 2010 Greece has had "informal embargo" on new medicines, both originator and generic products, and it remains unclear how much longer Greek patients will be without access to innovative treatments, "or why the state is financially burdened because of the failure to market generics," says SFEE.

The number of applications for withdrawing products from the market due to mistakes in the Price Bulletin "points to very serious risks to public health," because "unjustifiably and often mistakenly calculated prices" create unfair incentives for re-exporting, says the organisation, which urges action to redress this situation.

Over the last four years, pharmaceutical expenditure in Greece has been cut by more than 50%, says SFEE. "We know that the Prime Minister has ordered the payment of public-sector arrears, with a view to ensuring the normal functioning of the market. We know that the funds for the payment of 2011-12 arrears are earmarked at the State General Accounting Office, ready to be disbursed. We do not know why none of the companies has received any payment yet," it states.

The industry group says it is now making an "ultimate appeal" to the Ministry of Health and the National Organisation for Medicines (EOF) to urgently issue a "correct" Price Bulletin and proceed to the payment of arrears to the industry, “as the only way to prevent the devastating consequences on health care."

- Meantime, the EOF has reported that pharmaceutical companies withdrew 203 medicines from the Greek market in 2012 (compared to 99 the year before) and that 25 of the withdrawn drugs have no generic equivalents.

Also, during the first two months of 2013, 13 firms told the EOF that they plan to halve the supply of 25 medicines, the organisation's president, Yiannis Tountas, has said.

Drug prices in Greece fell by an average of 15.4% between December 2011 and December 2012, he said, speaking at a conference, and while the EOF has put most of its efforts into reducing prices, there had been "many side effects because this reduction has been achieved thanks to a problematic pricing system." Prices are current being adjusted very three months, and this is "causing errors,” he said.