Greece’s rampant pharmaceuticals market

Greeks consume an average of 44 packets of medicine every year, from simple eye drops and aspirin to expensive drugs, according to the Institute for Pharmaceutical Research and Technology (IFET). Official sales figures reveal an overconsumption of drugs, although some of these are stored in the household medicine chest without ever being used. In 2003, 442 million preparations were sold, compared to 243 million in 1990, a whopping 81 percent increase. Expenditure rose from 1.3 billion euros in 1998 to 2 billion in 2002. Attempts to contain expenditure by adopting the lowest European price for all drugs circulating in Greece has not paid off, as sales simply increased in line with the lower prices. Meanwhile this move was ruled unconstitutional by the Council of State. Now the government is considering a new system for setting prices and reimbursing the costs through social security funds. A study undertaken by the Center for European Constitutional Law – Themistocles and Dimitris Tsatsos Foundation (by Christina Golna, Xenophon Kontiadis and Kyriakos Souliotis), titled «Pharmaceutical Policy in Greece and Europe: Market Operation and Monitoring Framework,» showed an uncontrolled «free» consumption of drugs, along with overprescribed and higher-priced pharmaceuticals in Greece, but also a striking drop in domestic production and an accompanying increase in exports, resulting in an apparent shortage in the local market.

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