Greece has now adopted a controversial new pricing and reimbursement amendment with the aim of keeping the country’s drug spending to within 2 billion euros for 2014.  

The amendment, approved by parliament late last month and now published in the official gazette for inclusion in January 2104’s drug price bulletin, sets for brand-name medicines a price ceiling of 50%, or an average of the drug’s lowest prices in three other European Union (EU) countries - whichever is the lower.

Generic drugs must cost no more than 65% of the branded originator products, while prices for generics launched after January 1, 2012 will have to be reduced by 1% for every 250,000 euros worth of sales made in a 12-month period, it adds.

The new regulation also sets, from next January 9, limits on the costs of prescribing by each individual doctor affiliated with the Greek National Organisation for Healthcare Provision (EOPYY) and calls for the Organisation to establish a new committee tasked with monitoring pharmaceutical spending.

Overall, government ministers hope that the cost-saving measures included in the amendment will cut national pharmaceutical expenditures by as much as 480 million euros next year; however, the measure also includes increases to the rebates paid to suppliers of high-cost and innovative medicines of 3%-5%.

Observers welcome the fact that Greece will, for the first time, be applying international reference pricing to generics. They point to the continuing low levels generics usage in the country; they represented just 17% of the market, or sales totalling 900 million euros, last year. And the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) reported recently than while Greek spending on medicines in 2011 had dropped 10% per person from 2010, this lower level was still around $673, compared with an OECD average of $483.

However, national industry body the Hellenic Association of Pharmaceutical Companies (SFEE) says that the goal of keeping pharmaceutical spending to within 2 billion euros next year is “unfeasible,” and “can in no way be achieved without causing serious problems to the access of Greek patients to their therapies.”

Adoption of the target would result in per capita pharmaceutical consumption in Greece dropping to half of the average in the 28 EU member states, the group claims, and calls on the government to readjust next year’s pharmaceutical budget to 2.25-2.3 billion euros.