ECONOMY

Pharmaceutical industry calls for close coordination with gov’t

Most Greek pharmaceutical firms base their research mainly on clinical studies and, despite strong efforts by individual companies, the situation regarding primary research is rather disappointing, an industry official said last week. «In the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development as a whole, Greek spending on research and development (R&D) is no more than 0.1 percent, even thought the trend is showing some improvement,» Thanassis Lavidas, a member of the board of directors of the Hellenic Association of Pharmaceutical Companies (SFEE), told a conference titled «Medicines and Public Health: The European and National Dimensions,» held in Athens on November 29 and 30. «What is missing in the field of research is the coordination and cooperation between government and enterprises – and forming a triangle with universities,» he added, also noting the inadequate use of European Union-subsidized research programs and the lack of tax incentives compared to other countries where research is flourishing. Anne Lolan, general director of Ireland’s Pharmaceutical Enterprises Association (IPHA), said data showed that the considerable growth of pharmaceutical research in her country in recent decades was due to favorable conditions created by governments. She said public policy in the sector was based on two axes: close collaboration between government and firms and attracting foreign investment. She noted that Irish pharmaceutical exports amounted to less than 100 million euros in 1973 and the sector employed about 2,000 people. In 2001, the respective figures had risen to 32 billion euros and 18,000 people. Today, there are more than 120 pharmaceutical companies whose exports represent 29 percent of all Irish exports. Other favorable conditions that helped the industry grow were Ireland’s accession to the EU, competitive labor costs, and incentives in taxation and labor specialization. Federation of Greek Industries (SEV) Chairman Odysseas Kyriakopoulos said, «Pharmaceuticals is one of the most important sectors of the chemical industry, representing 8.3 percent of Greek industrial production.» «In recent years, investment in the sector has risen, most of it going toward replacing capital equipment and increasing the capacity for existing products. Nevertheless, the sector is shrinking; in 1999, 69 enterprises employed 4,650 people, while in 1993, 96 enterprises employed 6,454 people.» Kyriakopoulos urged the government to help the industry grow, rather than treat it as a tool for keeping health service costs down. «We must realize that spending on medicines, which today represents 15-18 percent of total spending on health, is going to go on rising,» he said. He cited Ireland as an example to be emulated. «Ms Nolan made us feel we still have still have a great deal of work ahead of us,» he said. T. Hall, an official of the European Commission’s health research directorate, emphasized that the growth of the industry depended a great deal on research and said the Commission was in negotiations with the European Investment Bank with a view to tapping additional resources for the development of the European pharmaceuticals industry. He said the Commission planned to spend about 400 million euros in the next four years on the creation of a European Cancer Research Center.