Spending on drugs among top in Europe

Spending on pharmaceuticals in Greece represents no less than 1.5 percent of gross domestic product (GDP), earning the country the fourth spot in Europe, behind Italy, Spain and Germany. The latest available data (2002) show the money spent on pharmaceutical products reaching 2 billion euros, with its GDP share remaining the same since 1995. A study by the Foundation for Economic and Industrial Research (IOBE) shows that pharmaceuticals absorb some 15 percent of the total health expenditure, trailing the eurozone average that stands at 17.7 percent. The drastic cut in local drug production has brought a huge shift in the ratio between imported and Greek-made pharmaceuticals over the last 15 years. Greek drugs represented three-quarters of those sold, with imported ones at 18 percent in 1987, while in 2003 the Greek ones stood at just 19 percent and the imported at 70 percent, benefiting from favorable pricing over locally made drugs. IOBE’s study also points at the distinction between pharmaceutical sales figures and pharmaceutical expenditure. The OECD’s International Classification of Health Accounts, which Greece has adopted, defines pharmaceutical expenditure as medical goods dispensed to outpatients, which classifies drugs consumed in hospitals as hospital expenditure instead. The study relies on pharmaceutical and health expenditure data from the National Statistics Service and the OECD, and not on those of the Institute of Pharmaceutical Research and Technology, as they do not account for sales to patients-consumers, but only to hospitals and drug storehouses. Meanwhile, Development Deputy Minister Yiannis Papathanassiou announced the drug pricing system is about to change. He said his ministry along with that for Health aim at limiting the pharmaceutical expenditure by the social security funds, along with easy access to drug treatment and boosting the Greek pharmaceutical industry and its employment capacity.