Greek Panic As Pharma Companies Stop Drug Shipments

Greek Panic As Pharma Companies Stop Drug Shipments

March 1st, 2013 // 6:19 pm @

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The economic crisis in Europe is taking a serious turn in Greece, where a shortage of more than 200 medicines is being blamed on drugmakers that have halted shipments over concerns that medicines will be exported by middlemen to other European countries where prices are higher, The Guardianwrites.

Pharmacies in Athens describe chaotic scenes with desperate customers going from outlet to outlet to find their prescription drugs that hospitals could no longer dispense. The shortages include medicines used to treat arthritis, hepatitis C, cancer high blood pressure and high cholesterol, as well as antipsychotics, antibiotics, anaesthetics and immunomodulators for combatting bowel disease.

The government has begun a list that now numbers more than 50 drugmakers that have withheld supplies, including Pfizer, Roche, Sanofi, GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) and AstraZeneca. Pfizer (PFE) , Roche and Sanofi (SNY) all confirmed that some products had been withheld, but Glaxo and AstraZeneca (AZN) denied the claims, as did Novartis (NVS) and Boehringer Ingelheim, the paper writes. But regulators say they have investigated 13 drugmakers and given names of eight “multinational companies” to the health ministry for fines.

“Companies are ceasing these supplies because Greece is not profitable for them and they are worried that their products will be exported by traders to other richer countries through parallel trade as Greece has the lowest medicine prices in Europe,” Yannis Tountas, the president of the Greek drug regulator, the National Organisation for Medicines, tells The Guardian.

“I would say supplies are down by 90 percent,” says Dimitris Karageorgiou, secretary general of the Penhellenic Pharmaceutical Association, which represents pharmacists. “The companies are ensuring that they come in dribs and drabs to avoid prosecution… It’s a disgrace. The government is panic-stricken and the multinationals only think about themselves and the issue of parallel trade because wholesalers can legally sell them to other European nations at a higher price.”

Drugmakers blame some shortages on the government pricing system. European Union trade rules allow free movement of goods, which means a wholesaler or pharmacist in Greece can sell medicines to wholesalers in other countries, the Guardian writes. Right now, drugs are priced at below the average of the three lowest prices in 22 EU countries, the paper adds, and drugmakers want this changed. Meanwhile, regulators have introduced export bans for nearly 60 drugs and are investigating wholesalers and pharmacists who for breaking the ban.

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