By Ben Hirschler
LONDON (Reuters) – Wholesalers trading medicines across European borders have criticised a suggestion by manufacturers that Greek exports should be restricted to prevent shortages of life-saving drugs in the country.
Such trade, which allows traders to buy products in low-cost markets & sell them where prices are higher, is allowed under EU free trade rules. But drugmakers have argued this could suck supplies out of Greece if Athens leaves the euro & prices in euro terms fall sharply.
The European Association of Euro Pharmaceutical Companies (EAEPC), representing firms involved in this so-called parallel trade, said drugmakers were wrong to say supplies could be in jeopardy if Europe did not take such emergency action.
"The wealthy pharmaceutical industry is exploiting the potential advent of another crisis in Greece for their own commercial purposes in portraying a medicines shortage," EAEPC wrote in a letter to EU Health Commissioner Vytenis Andriukaitis.
The move came in response to a previous letter sent to Andriukaitis earlier this week by the European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries & Associations, urging curbs on the re-export of drugs.
The EAEPC said parallel exports of medicines from Greece had actually decreased by more than a third since 2012 & the real reason for drug shortages in countries in financial crisis was liquidity problems affecting the whole supply chain.
Reuters reported in May that drug companies were owed more than 1.1 billion euros ($1.2 billion) by Greek hospitals & the state-run health insurer EOPYY, after not being paid since December.
(Reporting by Ben Hirschler; Editing by Pravin Char)