Greece makes branded drugs illegal

 The Greek parliament has made prescribing of branded (as opposed to generic) drugs by state healthcare providers a criminal offence.

Further legislation rushed through under the EU bailout agreement will force drug suppliers to pay back any overspending on the reduced drugs budget.

Overall spending on medication by Greece’s social insurance funds has been capped at €2.88bn for this year.

From April 1, clinicians may only prescribe generic drugs in the 10 leading therapeutic classes; from June 1 this will apply to all reimbursed medications.

The Greek health service will reimburse only for the cheapest product in each class. Prescribing anything other than the cheapest generic product, except on a private basis, will now be a criminal offence.

Greek Health Minister Andreas Loverdos has said he aims to cut €1bn from the nation’s drug spending in 2012.

The new legislation was demanded by the economic ‘troika’ of the EU, the European Central Bank and the IMF in return for Greece’s €130bn bailout.

The troika and the Greek health authorities are also reported to be planning a ban on the introduction of new medicines into Greece until they have been accepted for reimbursement by 8–10 other EU countries.

The implications for Greek pharmaceutical companies, and for multinational companies investing in Greece, are serious. These companies are currently owed major sums by the Greek public hospitals, while the government bonds that have been used to pay some international debts are now worth very little.

The medical debt crisis is also spreading across Portugal, Italy and Spain, with unpaid debts by EU health systems to pharma companies now standing at €12–15bn. About half of this is currently owed by Spain’s regional governments.

Richard Bergstrom, Director General of EFPIA, commented: “Things are getting rapidly worse.”