Alleged Scandal Not Behind Greek Pharmaceutical Spending Spike

(AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris)

ATHENS – Greece went wild on drug spending from 2003-09 with a barrage of buying dozens of new and expensive pharmaceuticals, unrestrained prescriptions and a propensity for medications, the reasons for the soaring costs, not alleged bribery, the business newspaper Naftemporiki said.

State spending for medicines more than doubled between 2003, from about two billion euros ($2.47 billion) to 5.1 billion euros ($6.3 billion) in 2009, the paper said it had found in a review.

Prime Minister and Radical Left SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras’ Administration alleges that a conspiracy involving the Swiss-based pharmaceutical company Novartis paid bribes of 50 million euros ($61.75 million) to 10 political rivals over a decade, spiking drug costs.

But the paper said it was the combination of greater demand by Greeks for drugs in a country that is antibiotic crazy and where generic drugs are scorned and the overconsumption of prescribed and over-the-counter drugs behind the soaring costs.

The report also cited 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 as other reasons.