Following a clash with the Greek government over its decision to withdraw a cancer drug from the market, ROCHE, a Swiss multinational company, ultimately decided to make the drug available to patients for free.
“With the free disposal of the drug, we are proving in practice that we continue to respond sensitively and responsibly to the needs of patients and healthcare professionals by overcoming the challenges of adopting restrictive measures in modern health policy,” ROCHE Hellas said in a statement.
The cancer drug will become available to all patients undergoing treatment the moment it is be withdrawn from the prescribed medicines list, a move that means the cost of the drug can no longer be covered by the state.
According to the Greek Federation of Cancer, it is estimated that about 50 patients are taking the drug.
The company also called on all health stakeholders to listen to the pharma industry to “re-launch” the dialogue and adopt structural reforms to redefine policies for the benefit of patients and ensure their access to innovative treatments today, but also in the future.
On Monday (30 October), Roche announced the withdrawal of the oncology drug, triggering the strong reaction from the Greek ministry of health.
The reason was a measure Athens recently introduced as part of the bailout deal with its international lenders, hitting the pharma industry with a levy of up to 25% on the turnover generated by new patent-protected drugs.
“The provocative tactics used by ROCHE must be addressed with determination by all the political and social forces of the country and by all the European institutions,” Greek health minister Andreas Ksanthos said in a statement, emphasising that the government would not accept any kind of blackmail.