Greek generic drugs cost up to 880% more than in Sweden

Minister called to lift price controls immediately

While Health Minister Adonis Georgiadis may claim that doctors are 'partying' at the expense of patients, his ministry's pricing rules for generic drugs means patients and insurance funds pay much more than their counterparts in Sweden

Generic drugs (Photo: Reuters) Generic drugs (Photo: Reuters) Generic drugs sold in Greece can cost up to 880% times the price of the same medicines in more affluent Sweden due to the pricing system followed by the health ministry, Eleftherotypia has revealed.

The health ministry has repeatedly claimed that doctors are frustrating the government's aim to reach a point where 60% of all drugs prescribed are generic. But the pricing system followed by the government means that the difference between patent and generic drugs is insignificant compared to Sweden, where half of all prescriptions are generic.

Under current rules, when the patent expires on a particular medicine, the price of drug is reduced by 50%, based on the highest price it once had on the market.

Similarly, under the same rules, the generic drug costs 40% of the original price of the patented drug.

Thus, if one patented drug cost €10 a pack, its off-patent price would be €5 and the generic equivalent €4 – a minimal price difference.

These rates are fixed, meaning that the rules applied to patented drugs – that they must cost the average of the three lowest prices of the drugs in other EU countries – do not apply.

The situation has attracted the attention of the troika, which has called on the health minister to change the pricing system for off-patent drugs so that they too are in line with the three lowest prices available elsewhere in the EU.

Eleftherotypia's information is based on figures provided by Dr Argyrios Argyiou, a general practitioner and graduate of Lund University, who has worked for many years in Sweden.

His findings show that the price differences for certain generic drugs ranges from 194% to 880%.

What generic drugs cost in Sweden and Greece (per pill in euros)
Drug Sweden Greece Difference
Simvastatin  0.072   0.707 880%
Atorvastatin  0.063  0.585  823%
Omeprazole  0.082  0.546  565%
Citalopram  0.064  0.372  483%
Finasteride  0.096  0.467  385%
Risperidone  0.104   0.308 194%

Commenting on the wild price differences, Yiorgos Eleftheriou, the head of the doctors who colloborate with the national health provider Eopyy, said that if the health ministry wishes to reach its target of 60% generic drugs on the Greek market, then it must immediately reduce prices.

He said that in Sweden, generic drugs account for half of all prescriptions in terms of volume and account for 15% of all sales of medicines.

But, in Greece, where a quarter of all drugs prescribed are generics, they account for 18% of all medicine sales.

"If this is not changed, then this is a real party at the expense of public funds," Eleftheriou said.

Minister responds

During a press conference called on Tuesday on the pricing of generic drugs, the health minister, Adonis Georgiadis, informed journalists that he was changing the agenda in order to sign an agreement setting up so-called "medicine banks" in order to provide free medicines to the uninsured.

When the journalists present reminded the minister that the decision to create medicine banks was made last December, Georgiadis lashed out at the media for not behaving, as he put it, like their colleagues abroad.

"You don't always have to expose the bad," he said, comparing Greek journalists to "whinging smurfs".

Health Minister Adonis Georgiadis Health Minister Adonis Georgiadis He was supported by the president of the Athens Medical Association, Yiorgos Patoulis, who was also present. Patoulis said the journalists were acting like "prosecutors" with their questions.

Yet, Georgiadis accepted that the figures published by Eleftherotypia were correct and said he would ensure "bold reductions" would be made in their cost, without providing details.

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