Athens – The supply of innovative biopharmaceuticals to Greek hospitals has broken down. Swiss Roche AG has pulled the plug by stopping delivery of drugs for cancer and other diseases to some state-funded hospitals. Among them are customers “who haven’t paid their bills in three or four years,” according to the company’s CEO Severin Schwan, who added “there comes a point where the business is not sustainable anymore.” Roche is not the only pharmaceutical company in dire financial straits on the Aegean. According to the Hellenic Association of Pharmaceutical Companies, members made sales totalling €1.93bn to Greek public hospitals in the 18 months from the beginning of 2010 to the end of June 2011, but only 37% (€718m) of the bills were paid.
Richard Bergström, the director of the European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries, said that pharma companies’ “patience is running out.” Some bills were paid in bonds, according to Roche, and reselling them immediately resulted in losses of up to 25% (around a100m). The problems don’t look set to be resolved anytime soon. Other governments “have been able to take rational steps,” Bergström said, but in his opinion Greece has not. If the situation deteriorates further, it could result in an all-out boycott of the country in the delivery of biopharmaceuticals and other cost-intensive drugs.