Many essential medicines are now unavailable in Greece due to health insurers failing to reimburse pharmacies, forcing pharmacies to start charging patients upfront.
This failure to regularly reimburse pharmacies for drugs covered by the Greek national organisation for healthcare provision (EOPYY) is down to a debt held by pharmacies that is set to reach €1bn by the end of May 2012, with €750m of that debt having been accrued in the last three months.
The debt has forced pharmacies to refuse to supply reimbursed medicines unless patients are able to pay for them up front and request the EOPYY for reimbursement personally, exacerbating the problem.
Low drug prices in the country have also led to increased drug exports and suppliers deeming the Greek market not financially viable, worsening drug shortage problems.
Further problems are being felt as the country is still failing to contain its public spend on medicines within the level set by its creditors, the EU, the European Central Bank and the European Monetary Fund. The annual level was set at €2.88bn, but the total forecast overspend for this year stands at around €600m.
Efforts to reduce waste and the oversupply of medicines hit problems after a new electronic prescription was forced to be taken offline several times due to technical problems, and hackers uploaded around 1.5 million fake prescriptions in April.
Despite the problems, European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations director general Richard Bergstrom has told Dow Jones Newswires that multinational pharmaceutical companies are willing to take a "reasonable approach" to continue to supply Greece with medicines should the country be forced to leave the Eurozone.
"There is no concrete plan but there is an understanding that, if something happened, we would need to move swiftly," added Bergstrom.
Image: EFPIA director general Richard Bergstrom has pledged to support Greece even if the nation is forced to leave the Eurozone. Credit: EFPIA