By G. Sakkas
Dozens of new and expensive pharmaceuticals, unrestrained prescription writing, a porous system for pricing and compensation, and all exacerbated by Greek society's indulgence in the over-consumption of prescription and over-the-counter medicines, are the primary reasons behind skyrocketing expenditures in the sector up until the economic crisis erupted in 2009-10.
The explosion in pharmaceutical spending in the country dominated the national limelight this past week amid a high-profile judicial probe into the Greek subsidiary of Novartis, with the latter reportedly investigated for graft and cartel-like practices. The case, in fact, has further poisoned the political scene, as three "protected witnesses" have claimed that bribes were funneled to at least 10 top politicians, including two former prime ministers.
State spending for medicines more than doubled between 2003 (roughly two billion euros) and 2009 (5.1 billion euros).
No less than a dozen reasons have been cited for the splurge in drug spending, which also include a total lack of price controls; high debut prices for new patents; substituting new and more expensive pharmaceutical for cheaper older versions; retaining the first - and more expensive price - for more than three years; delays in price adjustments; lack of proper control of payments by social security funds; over-prescription by physicians due to a lack of proper institutional oversight and adherence to medical protocols; non-existent e-prescriptions and data processing; illegal exports of pharmaceuticals; aggressive marketing by drug companies and Greek society's indulgence in over-consuming medicines.