Drugmakers offer to cap Greece's medicine bill, report says

Pharmaceutical manufacturers have offered to cap the national bill for drugs for Greece, if the country pledges to pay its current bills and not allow any payment problem to arise in the future, Reuters reported Monday morning.

Reuters said one of reporters saw a copy of the proposal from the trade group the European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations (EFPIA), which was sent in a letter to the Greek ministers of health and finance. A link to the story is here.

The proposal would cap the national outpatient pharmaceutical expenditure at $3.7 billion, but EFPIA wants the Greek 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, Reuters reported.

In October, the Greek government 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, told Reuters that 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, according to Reuters.

In recent days, many of the bigger pharmaceutical companies reported third-quarter financial results and whatever their particular numbers, they often cited problems in Europe.

Greece gets the most attention for being in economic distress, but several others are or recently were in a serious bind with finances, including Spain, Ireland and Portugal. With money tight, those nations were cutting back on reimbursements to drug companies for medicine.

GlaxoSmithKline chief executive officer, one of the leaders in the European trade group, said in a conference call with reporters last week that it was understandable that Greece, given its well-publicized financial problems, would cut reimbursements, but that better-off countries such as Germany were following suit.

"There is not very much cause for optimism," Witty said of the European pricing problem. A link to that Inquirer story is here.