The Spanish government has announced a new payment plan aimed at eradicating, by the end of the year, pharmacies’ debts with drug wholesalers dating back to 2011.

The plan will particularly target pharmacies in the regions which have been worst-affected by the payment delays, including Catalonia, Valencia and the Balearic Islands, and where pharmacies had been warning the government that they would have to close down if a payment plan was not worked out. It is also aimed at eliminating shortages of essential drugs, which have been particularly critical for chronic diseases, according to local reports. 

Commenting on the announcement, analysts at IHS Global Insight point out that the delays in payments to local pharmacies in the regions have in turn affected the pharmaceutical manufacturers and wholesalers which supply the country’s public healthcare system.

Also, the repayment plan “comes alongside the government working on establishing regulations for stable prices of drugs in the country that will make the national market more profitable for pharma companies operating in Spain,” they add.

However, a recent report from Business Monitor International (BMI) forecasts that the Spanish pharmaceuticals market will fall 10.4% this year in local currency terms, from 18.34 billion euros in 2012 to 16.44 billion euros. In US dollars, this is a fall of 6.2% from $23.30 billion to $21.86 billion, says the report, which also forecasts that total healthcare spending in Spain will fall by 0.7% from 99.51 billion euros in 2012 to 98.83 billion euros for the whole of 2013.

“The deterioration of the Spanish economy and the government’s implementation of increasingly aggressive fiscal austerity policies that focus on cost-containment in the healthcare sector will lead to yearly declines in pharmaceutical spending, at least till 2017,” BMI forecasts.

“Our view is supported by the success of previous government measures, including the steep decline in state spending on medicines and the drop in average expenditure per prescription, following the implementation of Royal Decree Laws 4 and 8/2010, Royal Decree Law 9/2011 and Royal Decree Law 16/2012,” the report adds.

• Royal Decree Law 4/2010 lowered the reference prices of generics which had been on the market for more than 10 years, while 8/2010 reduced the prices paid by the government for medicines and medical devices, Law 9/2011 made generic prescribing mandatory and Law 16/2012 introduced mandatory drug co-payments for all patients, including retirees.