Pharmaceutical company withdraws oncology drug from Greek market

The pharmaceutical company claims that with the new measures the price of its product could be reduced up to 70%. [Shutterstock]

A multinational pharmaceutical company has decided to withdraw an innovative oncology medicine from the Greek market, claiming that its price has fallen more than 50% because of the government’s regulatory interventions in the pharma area, has learnt.

According to a letter seen by EURACTIV, the pharmaceutical company notified the Greek ministry of health on 30 October about its decision to withdraw a new oncology drug from the prescribed medicines list, which means the drug is no longer going to be reimbursed.

Greek government on collision course with pharmaceutical companies over innovative drugs

Several pharmaceutical companies in Greece have threatened to stop supplying the market with innovative drugs and said they could even withdraw existing drugs as a result of an obligatory “discount” imposed by the Greek government and applied retroactively.

EURACTIV reported last week that a number of measures in the drugs market taken by successive Greek governments due to the bailout programme commitments have put a lot of pressure on the pharmaceuticals, which threatened to either withdraw innovative products and therapies from the market or stop introducing new drugs altogether.

The reason for this, pharmaceuticals say, is a measure Athens recently introduced as part of the bailout deal with its international lenders, hitting the pharma industry with an up to 25% levy on the turnover generated by new patent-protected drugs.

This rebate has been applied to all innovative drugs retroactively from January 2017.

In addition to this, the Greek government decided in May 2017 to impose a 25% market entry fee on new medicines.

“These measures do not exist only in Greece but in all EU member states,” a source from the National Organisation for Healthcare Provision (EOPYY) commented, adding that no company is forced to bring innovative drugs to the market if it does not want to.

“In the cases where a doctor decides that a patient needs a medicine that is not on the market, then EOPYY ensures access to it,” the same source explained.

Pharma innovation

Hit hard by austerity, the health systems of EU member states are under huge pressure. Combined with an aging population and the alarming burden of chronic illnesses, EU member states have targeted specific aspects of the incentives granted to the pharma industry in order to decrease drug prices.

‘Prohibitive’ conditions

In the letter, the pharmaceutical company complained that with the new measures the price of its product could be reduced up to 70%, which creates “prohibitive” circumstances and deals a severe blow to innovation.

EURACTIV was informed that a relevant announcement will be made later today.

The company also stressed that this series of horizontal measures does not contribute to controlling the country’s pharmaceutical spending and puts obstacles to patients’ access to innovative medicines.

This is the main argument of the pharma industry in the current drugs incentives debate in the EU, which is indirectly linked to pricing.

Member states have the full competence to decide which medicinal products are reimbursed and at what price, while the European Commission is exclusively responsible for the competition of medicinal products on the EU market.

In June 2016, EU health ministers called on the European Commission to perform a review of the current EU legislative tools and incentives that aim to facilitate investment in the development of medicinal products.

EU Commissioner for Health and Food Safety Vytenis Andriukaitis recently told EURACTIV that innovation in the pharmaceutical market is the “only way forward” for future healthcare but insisted that new evidence-based economic models should be developed.

Pharma boss: Targeting drugs won’t make healthcare systems more sustainable

“Salami-slicing” the cost of medicines, which represent almost one-fifth of health system budgets and are subject to rigorous value assessments, won’t make healthcare systems more sustainable in the future, Nathalie Moll told in an interview.

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