Police probe sheds light on methods of medicine racket

Police probe sheds light on methods of medicine racket

A police investigation into an international racket dealing in medicines, including expensive drugs for cancer treatment, believed to have cost the Greek state millions of euros, has shed light on the ring members’ methods. 

Tapped telephone conversations involving suspected members of the racket, including hospital doctors, nursing personnel, pharmacists and pharmaceutical supply companies, indicate that they were meticulous and determined in their efforts to procure the most costly medicines in their bid to increase their profits, Kathimerini understands.

In one tapped conversation, a pharmacist tied to the gang can be heard grilling a colleague for details about the expiry dates of a series of medicines (as a rule medicines traded between European Union countries must expire within 11 months and the most expensive drugs have the longest life).

The suspect can be heard ordering 30 lots of the drug Opdivo, a medicine used to treat cancer, particularly metastatic melanomas, at 950 euros a piece. According to pharmaceutical warehouse representatives that spoke to Kathimerini, in 90 percent of cases, the drugs procured illegally by such rackets are repackaged so that the racketers can cover their tracks.

Believed to have operated since 2013, the racket is thought to have obtained expensive medicines from state-run hospitals using forged documents and sold them in Germany, Switzerland and Italy at inflated prices.

According to sources, three key factors helped the racket flourish in the Greek market: firstly, the relatively low price of brand name drugs in Greece compared to most other European countries; secondly the inadequate operation of hospital medicine stocking facilities; and thirdly the practice of what is known as parallel trade – buying cheap medicines to re-export at a higher price – which creates market shortages.

Despite the racket members’ clear commitment to profiting, irrespective of the repercussions on cancer patients, their turnover amounted to only 12 percent of the 25 million euros’ worth of drugs they are believed to have dealt in since 2013, according to investigators.

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