Drugmakers offer to cap Greece's medicines bill

Sun Nov 4, 2012 5:42pm EST
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By Ben Hirschler

LONDON (Reuters) - International drug companies have offered to cap the total amount the Greek government has to pay for its medicines in a bid to resolve a crisis that is jeopardizing both the supply of drugs to patients and drugmakers' profits.

The proposal was set out by the trade group the European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations (Efpia) in a letter to the Greek ministers of health and finance, a copy of which was seen by Reuters.

In exchange for a ceiling on outpatient pharmaceutical expenditure of 2.88 billion euros ($3.70 billion) in 2012, Efpia wants the government to commit to pay off all outstanding debts and promise not to allow further arrears to build up.

Under the plan, individual drug companies would be subject to a "clawback" if the cost ceiling is breached, based on their share of the Greek market.

The move follows growing concerns about the situation in Greece, where the government last month took the highly unusual step of suspending all drug exports from the country in an attempt to prevent shortages.

Richard Bergstrom, Efpia's director general, said the industry's offer to Greece reflected a new realism among major drug manufacturers, who have seen sales and profits eroded by steep price cuts and unpaid bills in austerity-hit Europe.

"Setting a growth cap or budget ceiling is not something we have ever liked to do in the past, but in the current environment it is better to do that and have some stability," he said in a telephone interview.

Other pharmaceutical stability agreements have already been agreed in Portugal, Ireland and Belgium, and the model could be extended to other states in future.   Continued...