Big Pharma meds keep flowing to Greece after vote--so far

Greeks rejected their proposed bailout over the weekend, but so far drugmakers say they're continuing to ship products to the country. Greek hospitals already owe pharma more than $1 billion, and the lack of a fiscal deal means the bills will keep stacking up. Bank closures could complicate other payments.

As Reuters notes, almost all drugs sold in Greece are imported, and Greek hospitals have been in arrears since December. Plus, they've paid on and off for several years; previously, public hospitals and state insurers have owed drugmakers $1.5 billion or more.

Now, AstraZeneca ($AZN), Pfizer ($PFE) and Roche ($RHHBY) all tell the news service that they don't anticipate any interruption in supplies of their meds. AZ said that it's working on backup plans, but for now its supply chain hasn't been affected. "[W]hile the banks are closed, bank transfers to and within Greece are still possible," a spokesperson told Reuters.

Pfizer figures that current inventories will satisfy demand in the short term, and Roche says its products are still available.

In the past, some drugmakers have restricted supplies of certain drugs in the country as bills went unpaid. Merck KGaA, for instance, stopped supplying Erbitux to state-funded hospitals, but sold it at the pharmacy level so patients could still get access. Other companies have stopped selling pricier new products in favor of older alternatives.

Supplies may not be in danger in Greece so far, but last week industry leaders urged European officials to come up with contingency plans. The biggest disruptions would come if Greece decides to leave the E.U. Huge decreases in the prices of drugs could happen in that case, triggering reference-pricing moves in other countries and creating an incentive for parallel trade.

- see the Reuters news