Lack of drug availability in Greece will
be brought before EU Council

As tensions continue to rise between the government in Athens and large pharmaceutical companies, the Health Council of the EU is set to discuss the issues of certain drugs not being readily available on the Greek market on 8th December.

The health minister for Greece, Andreas Ksanthos will discuss with his member state counterparts the recent battle between the Greek government and Swiss multinational ROCHE. ROCHE decided to remove a cancer drug from the list of prescribed medicines, and as such its costs will no longer be paid by the state. The company took this decision as a direct consequence of the decision made by Athens to hit the pharmaceutical sector introducing a 25% levy OF compulsory discount for on-patent drugs which are new to entering the market.

Andreas Ksanthos outlined that it is essential that the European institutions address the tactics that ROCHE use. He also stated that Athens would not tolerate being manipulated in this way.

However, ROCHE did subsequently give 50 patients the cancer drug without charge, but the Greek Government does not want this to become the norm. Ksanthos wrote to his Estonian counterpart to address that the pharma market caused problems in many member states. He further referred to the ROCHE incident and outlined that is was essential that member states be informed of such actions so that they can coordinate their approach.

He further said that there is a requirement to build strong synergy when it comes to pharmaceutical policy, particularly with regards to bargaining power. This is to prevent unfair trade practices in a particularly vulnerable sector.

This is not the first time such an issue has been raised, just last year the health ministers of Greece, Italy, Malta, Spain and Portugal held a meeting to sign the Vallarta Declaration, with the objective of improving cooperation. The idea is to enhance member states’ bargaining power when it comes to negotiating pricing with big pharmaceutical companies.

Ksanthos has said that official negotiations are anticipated to begin in January. Member states will be divided into pairs, with each pair responsible for negotiating with pharmaceutical companies for new drugs in a treatment group.

 

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