Two immediate priorities to avert a collapse of the Healthcare System and restore patients’ dignity
• Urgent need for proper funding of EOPYY for a sustainable Healthcare System
• We say “No” to a two-speed Europe for patients – Immediate access of Greek patients to innovative treatments
Athens, July 5th 2012_ The President of SFEE, Mr. Konstantinos Frouzis, called for immediate actions by the government to support patients, stating that SFEE can act as an institutional consultant of the government. In this way, the effectiveness of government interventions can be maximized, without jeopardizing citizens’ access to medicines.
Today, given the economic circumstances and improper management by the State, many insured patients have for a long time been left without the treatments they need. It is now clear that EOPYY’s financing is grossly inadequate and poorly designed, thus failing to meet the increased health care needs of the insured.
«The State has once again failed to fulfill its obligations, and its debts to pharmaceutical companies are several years past due, while the haircut on the government bonds that we have been given in settlement of such debts has been, to say the least, unfair. We have all witnessed the results of these actions. Most of all, the chronically or severely ill patients, are cruelly hit by the State’s failure to provide them with what they are entitled to “, said Mr. Frouzis.
Moreover Mr. Vasilis Neiadas, Secretary General of the Board of Directors of SFEE, referred to the short – and medium – term objectives that the new government should set, and assured of SFEE’s willingness to contribute to the attainment of these objectives.
“The new government should immediately review the policy of cuts in the sensitive area of Health Care, by addressing the issue of EOPYY’s funding, in order to ensure the sustainability of the health care system, to the benefit of the insured and other stakeholders in the Health Care sector”, stressed Mr. Neiadas.
Mr. Costas Euripides, Vice President of SFEE, invited the new government “ to increase EOPYY’s budget, so that the debts of the Organisation and of public hospitals can be settled as soon as possible”, adding that “EOPYY’s debts to pharmaceutical companies have reached an amount of over € 500 million, while an additional € 1 billion is owed by the NHS and Military Hospitals”.
Mr. Nikos Kefalas, Vice President of SFEE referred to ” two-speed” European patients and called upon the new government “to focus on the issue of Greek patients’ access to treatments, especially innovative ones, with absolute seriousness and determination. The adverse economic environment shaped by the crisis should in no way serve as an excuse for circumventing international declarations and years of struggles, which would create a two-speed Europe for patients and in terms of access to treatments“, he added.
“The tragic delays in the issuing of the Price Bulletin with new medicinal products, which has against the law, stalled for 19 months now, is a very serious issue, as it implies that Greek patients are deprived of their right to equal treatment compared to other European citizens”, added Mr. Frouzis. “The lives of people suffering from cancer or other chronic and rare diseases are unnecessarily put in danger or even lost. There are new treatments to which Greek patients have no access and this is something that all those in charge should be ashamed of“, stressed the President of SFEE.
Regarding the medium-term objectives of the new leadership of the Ministry of Health, Mr. Paschalis Apostolides, Vice President of SFEE, asked the Ministry “to go ahead at last with the structural changes in the Health Care System”. “First and foremost on the healthcare agenda of this government, if it wants to be long lasting, is the universal implementation of electronic prescribing and therapeutic protocols, in order to combat waste and fraud and produce savings that can be reinvested in an upgrade of the quality of the Health Care System”. “Furthermore,” he said, “there is an urgent need to rationalize pharmaceutical expenditure through the equal and active participation of all stakeholders in the supply chain, full implementation of enacted measures as well as the fight against illegal trade of fraudulent prescriptions at the expense of the State.”
Concluding the Press Conference, Mr. Frouzis and Mr. Neiadas, referred to the crucial issue of rationalizing the pharmaceutical budget and setting a target for the outpatient market to 1.4% of GDP – taking also into account the free fall of GDP projected for 2013 for the sixth consecutive year – , so that the Health Care System can effectively remain sustainable.
“This is a completely fair target , if we want to keep the Health Care System of our country up to European standards, taking into consideration that Greece’s GDP is free falling, and at the same time, the need to protect Greek citizens from devastating increases in co-payment rates“, stressed Mr. Frouzis.
“We must all understand that the medicine is not just any product. It is a social good, but also a key ingredient for social cohesion and solidarity in our country and this is how it should be seen by everyone, including the State” said the President of SFEE closing the press conference.
OTHER KEY ISSUES TO RESOLVE
Interventionsin the remaining 85% of the healthcare sector
According to Mr. Frouzis, government interventions in the healthcare sector have so far been targeted almost exclusively at pharmaceuticals. In 2009, the public pharmaceutical budget was approx. € 7 billion and should fall to €4 billion (!) by the end of 2012. . In 2011, the public hospital pharmaceutical expenditure was only 15% of total operating costs of the NHS. “We don’t ask to be exempted from the effort to rationalize expenditure. We expect, however, to see the State’s interventions also in the remaining 85% of the healthcare sector, i.e. costs other than pharmaceuticals pie”. The cuts in public expenditure should be fairly allocated, effective and, above all, sustainable“, noted Mr. Frouzis. He pointed out, the State has so far adopted piecemeal measures in the field of pharmaceuticals, including across-the-board discounts (rebates). At the same time, we are witnessing long delays in promoting the urgently needed structural reforms in the medicine distribution system, along with the unhindered and universal implementation of electronic prescribing and therapeutic protocols.
€ 1,5 billion debt of the State to pharmaceutical companies
For a number of decades, pharmaceutical companies have been financing the very functioning of the State. The general government sector owes to pharmaceutical companies € 1.55 billion for medicines supplied over the past 18 months. IKA and EOPYY owe approx. € 550 million, relating to supplies invoiced during the past 18 months. NHS hospitals owe € 850 million and military hospitals have a debt of €150 million originating from invoices issued since 2007. Apart from these debts, pharmaceutical companies have suffered a loss of € 1 billion from the haircut on the government bonds they, were obliged to accept in settlement of hospitals arrears.
“It is true that pharmaceutical companies have shouldered most of the burden of the system for the last three years. But this cannot continue anymore, when companies’ very survival is threatened”, commented Mr. Frouzis.
As he said, pharmaceutical companies struggle to survive in a difficult economic environment, continuing to support employment and investment. “Our goal is to keep afloat, without compromising the services we provide to Greek patients“. “Our challenge at the moment,” he said, “is the survival and excellence of pharmaceutical companies – both Greek and multinational – to the benefit of the Healthcare System and social cohesion. There is no intention to suspend our business or leave the country. The State should contribute to this effort, in order to keep the sector alive, as pharmaceutical companies are its allies.”
Patient access to innovative treatments and new medicines
Mr. Frouzis stressed that “We will not let t Greek citizens become second- class citizens within the European Union. They are entitled to equitable access to innovative treatments and new medicines, just like the citizens of any other country of the EU . The State has an obligation to address immediately the issue of illegal delay in issuing the price bulletin for new medications. It is just not possible that human lives should be threatened or lost in these almost 2 years, because of this inexplicable and unacceptable neglect. Human life is above everything and everyone. Transplanted patients, patients suffering from metastatic cancers, Leukemia, Tuberous Sclerosis, Gaucher’s disease, Cushing’s disease, Cystic Fibrosis and other serious diseases, such Diabetes type II, Epilepsy, Lupus, Hepatitis C, AIDS etc, can’t be in agony about their lives and suffer tremendously, waiting to gain access to their treatments.”
THE CONTRIBUTION OF THE PHARMACEUTICAL INDUSTRY TO THE GREEK SOCIETY
“Pharmaceutical companies,” added Mr. Frouzis, “contribute to the promotion of entrepreneurship in Greece, support economic growth , employment and the Health Care System, while at the same time they offer dozens of thousands of high-standard jobs, and produce government revenue worth billions of euro, coming from social security contributions , taxes and investment. Moreover, by investing tens of millions of euros in Greece they support the Greek economy’s return to growth. It is worth mentioning that domestically produced medicines are exported to 100 countries around the world. About 250 invasive clinical studies are currently under way, representing a total investment volume of € 85 million. Pharmaceutical companies contribute to the Greek GDP and provide quality jobs to 25,000 highly qualified scientists”.
In conclusion, the President of SFEE noted that the new Board of the Association with all its members will stand by the State in the quest for practicable solutions that will deliver a sustainable health care system to the benefit of Greek citizens.