BUSINESS

Greece lifts ban on re-export of medicines

TAGS: Health

Greece has lifted a ban on the re-export of medicines, which had been imposed for certain drugs in July at the height of concerns about possible shortages that risked leading to a humanitarian crisis.

The National Medicines Agency said the temporary block on wholesalers buying drugs in Greece and selling them at higher prices elsewhere in Europe had been ended.

Such exports, known as parallel trade, are permitted under European Union free trade rules but Greece imposed an exceptional ban on the export of 25 types of drugs two months ago following warnings of possible serious shortages.

Officials said at the time that “abuses” by some market players had been discovered, after pharmacists complained of difficulties in securing supplies.

Nearly all Greek medicine is imported, heightening fears that life-saving drugs might run out as Greece teetered on the brink of an exit from the euro zone earlier this year.

Before the temporary ban, drugmakers and wholesalers had traded blame about who was responsible for a worsening supply situation at pharmacies and hospitals.

In a statement published on its website, dated Sept. 8, the medicines agency said it would continue to monitor the situation and could take further action if a supply problem re-occurred.

It said both drugmakers and wholesalers had an obligation to “ensure appropriate and continued supplies to pharmacies and persons authorised to supply medicinal products to meet the needs of patients who are in Greece”. Pharmaceutical manufacturers face large unpaid bills in Greece but have promised to keep supply lines open. Reuters reported in May that companies were owed more than $1.2 billion by Greek hospitals and the state-run health insurer, after not being paid since December.

The European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations has argued for a curb on re-exports to prevent medicines being sucked out of the country.

But the European Association of Euro Pharmaceutical Companies, representing firms involved in parallel trade, says this is a ploy by drugmakers to exploit the Greek crisis for their own commercial purposes.

[Reuters]
 

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