Spain's drug spending drops as pharma debt mounts

Spain is trying to fix its prescription-drugs spending, but so far, it's only managed to cause drugmakers pain. As PharmaTimes reports, the austerity-minded country cut its drug spending 8.8% last year--and still managed to end 2011 with a 6.37 billion-euro pharma debt.

Thanks to a combination of lower prescription growth and a series of cost-cutting moves, the Spanish government spent 11.136 billion euros on drugs in 2011, down 1.4 billion euros from 2010. One of the government's attempts to curtail drug spending was particularly tough on branded drugmakers: It now requires prescriptions to be written with the drug's chemical name, rather than brand name, and requires pharmacies to fill scripts with the cheapest available product. At the same time, the number of prescriptions grew just 1.6%, less than one-third the growth rate in 2009.

Despite the spending cuts, the state health system managed to end the year owing that €6.37 billion to pharma companies. That's 36% more than the amount in arrears at the end of 2010. The debt has grown so much--and persisted for so long--that the domestic pharma association actually proposed securitizing it. That could be the only way drug companies might get their money anytime soon; the pharma payments have been delayed by 525 days, on average.

IHS Global Insight analysts predict that Spain's pharma spending will drop even more this year. The research firm expects drug expenditures to fall more than 13% this time.

- read the PharmaTimes coverage