The Pharmaceutical Industry—A Key Asset of the National Economy

Since 2009 Greece is living through the most severe economic crisis of the past sixty years but despite difficulties, obstacles and serious structural problems that need to be overcome, our country can and should return to growth and prosperity setting new economic objectives and pursuing them with determination, resolve and a new set of values and principles.

It is frequently said that “…where there is crisis there is opportunity…”. Opportunity is linked to entrepreneurship, which under certain circumstances could generate new wealth, increase employment and earnings, contribute to a more diverse and more distributed national income. Higher tax revenue would allow for higher public investments contributing to social welfare and wellbeing.

Pharmaceutical enterprises are a great example of successful entrepreneurship globally, continentally and nationally. They advance medical research by developing new medicines which improve peoples’ health as well as the quality and longevity of life. This research–based industry is a key asset of the European economy being one of its top performing high–technology sectors.

The pharmaceutical industry in Greece is one of its most dynamic sectors and can be a “catalyst” for the recovery of the national economy. Local and multinational companies provide quality medicines which are made available at prices that are among the lowest in the European Union. They are net contributors to social welfare, add value to production, lay the foundation for a new knowledge economy, bring in new technologies and know how. In this regard, pharmaceutical enterprises should be perceived for what they can really be, a pillar for the development of a new economy leading Greece to the after crisis period.

According to official data and research findings of the Foundation of Economic and Industrial Research (FEIR/IOBE), the overall contribution of the pharmaceutical industry on the Greek GDP amounts to EUR 7.55 billion or more than 4%. The outlook is also very strong: by 2021 the industry can contribute another EUR 2 billion and create 25,000 new jobs.

The pharmaceutical industry invests billions of Euros each year in clinical research (35 billion Euros per year in Europe alone). Greece lags behind. We should intensify our effort to attract additional funds by introducing new incentives. The area of clinical research is of exceptional importance in improving peoples’ health and in contributing to the global effort for the invention of new, effective and affordable new medicines.

Investment in clinical trials could reach EUR 400 million in the medium term, although today this activity is very limited: the current annual investment is only EUR 84 million, one fifth of what could be expected. For this to happen, state support must play a key role by creating a friendly environment for the implementation of clinical trials to which both national and multinational companies are ready and willing to respond. The European rules and regulations in the field should be the guiding principle.

Having said that, it is imperative to underline the fact that the pharmaceutical industry in the past – unfortunately – has been targeted by successive Greek governments and has become a victim of over regulation. Especially during the crisis period, the health policies implemented focused on reducing public pharmaceutical expenditure rather than implementing structural reforms that would ensure savings in the health system as a whole. In addition, the policies of unreasonable rebates and claw backs have been maintained in spite of the fact that prices were the lowest in Europe. The new across-the-board measures will significantly delay the availability of new medicinal products to Greek patients. This would impair even further the healthcare community’s access to innovative knowledge and it would restrict access to new innovative medicines for people who do not have the luxury of time and for whom these treatments may be their only hope.

Moreover, these kind of policies, exhaust the viability of the pharmaceutical industry which has long been operating at the limits of its strength. At the same time, the policies have created conditions of disinvestment and have caused a reduction of the already limited clinical research conducted in our country.

In closing, I would like to emphasize that the role of the state is essential and necessary. A state that functions as regulator for the industry, as a fiscally responsible entity committed in providing public goods, welfare, health services and a stable and predictable business environment. Pharmaceutical products are a key component for a society and an economy that wish to grow, develop and prosper. In this respect the pharmaceutical industry is willing and ready to join the other forces of economic growth in the national effort to exit from the recession. There is a strong need for the agreement and cooperation of all industry stakeholders to move ahead, overcome the crisis and lead the way. We have already waited too long.

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