Prescription for economic health. Greece acts to reduce expenditure on drugs and counter the culture of corruption

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Although its economic situation appeared to stabilise in the spring of 2010, Greece has now dived into the red again. This is the first such development to have occurred so far in the euro zone and reflects the enormous economic upheaval the country is going through. The combination of economic decline and healthcare reforms, particularly to the implementation of large drug price reductions suggest an 8.3% decline in drug expenditure for 2010. The government sees the industry as a politically viable target for cost reductions; the cost of drugs had been pushing up healthcare costs from 2004–2009.

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At the same time as cutting prices, the government is pressing ahead with computerisation. It is reported that in 2008, 75% of healthcare professionals in Greece had never had contact with the internet.

The prices of over 2,500 medicines were cut in September, averaging 20% on products which account for 97% of the Greek national drugs bill. Around 50 pharmaceutical companies are reported to have launched objections to the prices allocated to their products. Nevertheless an industry spokesman said “this solution is acceptable due to the fiscal situation our country is facing and will be until the IT infrastructure of the health system is fully completed”.

Electronic prescription monitoring should go a long way towards beating the corruption which has long surrounded the procurement and distribution of high-cost drugs in the hospital sector. Critics claim that hospitals constitute the most corrupt sector of the nation’s public services, with demands for bribes preventing some patients from getting the treatment they need. The anti-corruption watchdog Transparency International has estimated that over 13% of the Greek population resorted to bribery in 2008, with most of the estimated Euros 700 million spent on bribes going to hospitals.

Drug price reductions in Greece are particularly significant as they have a considerable knock-on effect on other European markets. The use of reference pricing systems across Europe means that Greece is often included in the basket of countries used to determine prices in other European states, including Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Hungary, Portugal, Romania, Spain, and Turkey. As a result, reductions in Greece will eventually filter into price reductions in other countries.

Related articles

Price cuts, legislation and reforms

Can we have our cake and eat it?

References

Greece Pharmaceuticals and Healthcare Report Q4 2010. Business Monitor International. 30 September 2010.

Koutsojannis C et al. Web-based Education against Computer Anxiety of Greek Health Care Professionals. World Scientific and Engineering Academy and Society (WSEAS). 2008.

Source: PharmaTimes, Scrip.

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