Greece's Anti-Austerity Government Sets Out Pharma Plans

February 2, 2015
Julian Upton

Julian Upton is Pharmaceutical Executive's Online and European Editor. He can be reached at jupton@mjhlifesciences.com

Pharma and healthcare are among the many areas being viewed with increasing attention inside and outside Greece, following the victory in the country’s elections of the radical left-wing, anti-austerity Syriza party.

Pharma and healthcare are among the many areas being viewed with increasing attention inside and outside Greece, following the victory in the country’s elections of the radical left-wing, anti-austerity Syriza party (a victory it secured by forming a coalition with the right-wing Independent Greeks party).

Healthcare is very much on Syriza’s agenda: the party has described Greece’s compromised access-to-healthcare situation as a "humanitarian crisis”. The country’s new prime minister, Alexis Tsipras, was barely through the doors of the Presidential Mansion when he filed a decree to restructure the Greek Ministry of Health.

To improve access for the country’s poorest citizens, Tsipras wants to make significant reductions to co-payments paid by Greek patients for prescription medicines; he has tasked the Ministry of Health to once again issue social insurance funds. A restructuring of primary care is also on the cards.

Greece owes its creditors - the European Financial Stability Facility, the International Monetary Fund, and the European Central Bank - around €315 bn ($355 bn); Syriza’s promise to overhaul the country’s repayment plan is of course a major factor in propelling the party to victory. Syriza says its plans to boost public health spending can be achieved by clearing tax arrears, backlogs in social insurance contributions and combating tax fraud.

However, Greece has already been pushing its luck with non-payment of its pharma debts. As in-Pharma Technologist’s Gareth MacDonald points out, as of November last year, for example, the country owed Merck & Co. $71m for drugs supplied on credit, and accounts for part of the $907m Pfizer is still owed from crisis-hit Europe. Syriza’s rejection of the strictest austerity measures is not likely to see these pharma debts settled any time soon.

Syriza wants to bolster Greece's indigenous pharma industry with increased production of "high-quality generics". But IHS.com writes that "Greek producers have also been adversely affected by pricing regulation changes introduced last year, which resulted in drastic reductions in the prices of generics". And of Syriza's bid to increase the current level of pharmaceutical reimbursement (€2 bn) by €350m, IHS adds that while this increase is not particularly high, "considering the lengths to which the previous government was going to in order to keep reimbursement spending down, it is a massive change”. As such, "many questions remain" about how Syriza will deliver on its pharma and healthcare promises

 

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