We can make a difference, leveraging crisis as an opportunity
By Konstantinos M. Frouzis, President of SFEE (Pharma Industry Association)
We don’t have to be afraid of the crisis. Nobody says that an economic crisis is a positive development. But in order to overcome it, we should embrace it in a deeper, strategic level. It’s the tough times that test our agility and make us to find the will, the resources and the spirit to transcend ourselves. In these testing times there is an opportunity for the Greek pharmaceutical industry to fight for a better future while safeguarding the levels of health that play a vital role in making Greek society a firmly European one. Nobody would disagree with the fact that we need to grasp the modern imperatives of Europe and the world in order to reorganize ourselves towards more innovative, robust and active models of engagement in the economic activity. But everything we do cannot be effective and lasting if it is not firmly based on certain values centered on the very essence of the human condition.
It is often forgotten that the pharmaceutical industry is the most human-centered of all the dynamic modern industries. Pharmaceuticals are the most potent symbols of our modern advanced culture. We are the guardians of welfare, the “armed forces of human health” across countries and continents. It is beyond any doubt that our success is closely related to our ability to support national health systems. We are responsible for the phenomenal volume of scientific innovation in life sciences in the past 60 years, practically giving physicians the tools necessary for fighting disease and extending the life-span of billions of people. Greece has been a prime beneficiary of the post war pharmaceutical revolution because of the hard work, dedication and innovative practices of thousands of employees in our sector. It is our duty, in these harsh times, to defend what we have achieved for our society and our patients.
The side-effects and the caps imposed on the pharmaceutical spend by the stabilization policies have been effectively dealt with – until now. Greek citizens continue to have access to medicines and therapies of the highest quality and effectiveness despite the crushing taxes on the industry, the accumulation of arrears and the deep haircut on hospital debts of past years which was denominated in Greek sovereign bonds and the continuing difficulty of the national banking system to refinance economic activity.
However, the exclusion of new innovative drugs waiting for access to the market for the last three years and the shrinking of the national health budget, which has been wrongly “locked” to the crisis-hit GDP at the level of 1%, have created all the conditions for a near-future social crisis. There’s a limit under which the cut in health budget and the exclusion of new drugs from the market directly affects society and the economy. This policy can easily translate into lower health standards which might lead to a humanitarian crisis with direct negative effects on the ability of the country to bounce back from the economic crisis. However, we are optimistic that realism based on scientific facts will prevail. All stakeholders should agree to exchange the unjust benchmark of “1% of GDP” with the “expenditure per capita” – a benchmark that can provide just comparisons between states across Europe and prevent the meltdown of the Greek health system. I am confident that pharmaceutical companies and our European partners embracing the concept of the optimal balance between public health and expenditure on health will act on both fronts of ensuring fair access to the market for new medicines that transform traditional therapies while they will guarantee the re-establishment of the concept of optimal expenditure. We should boldly accept that we do not have the “luxury” to isolate Greek patients from innovative therapies. By doing so, we prevent Greek patients from innovative therapies. We defend values upon which the concept of Europe is standing.
We should not overlook that, Greek pharma industry not only safeguards Greek health standards, but also continues to export in more than 100 countries drugs of the highest quality and efficacy. In this way we have set an example, a distinctly Greek example of the highest standards, in the realm of private enterprise. We have invested in a number of modern factories that operate under the latest international standards of quality. Our expertise in clinical trials has got a vote of confidence in recent years as an increasing number of multinational pharmaceutical companies include Greece in their global plans. It is an achievement for a number of life science professionals and scientists across Greece. SFEE congratulates all of them and it wants to express its deep trust in their ability and their contribution in the future of the industry.
It is for certain that the capacity of Greece to produce medicines of high standards can be increased even further in the near future. Greeks, a population with one of the highest percentage of educated young professionals in Europe, could prove that they can excel in life sciences and make their mark in the international pharmaceutical industry. The State should facilitate Greek scientists save and improve more lives across the globe with their work in Greece. The Greek pharmaceutical companies, operating under international standards of leadership and management, are implementing the best managerial practices that cannot only guarantee the future success of the sector, but they can also be applied across many other sectors. It is a fact that the accumulative impact of our pharmaceutical sector in the Greek economy, in qualitative and quantitative terms is very important for the future of the country.
However, we should not ignore or understate the strong headwinds our industry is facing because of the crisis. They are real and serious. But I am confident, that working closely with the State and our other stakeholders, we can ensure a sustainable path towards stability and development, a second stage. I am firmly convinced that Greek pharmaceutical companies have a bright future in our country that can set an historic example of resilience and success. We belong to a generation that can make a difference, despite of the global uncertainty, or even because of it, as the challenges of today should make us reveal and call up the best of ourselves.