November 7, 2017
GREECE – On October 30, 2017 the Swiss pharmaceutical company Roche announced its decision to retract oncology drug Cotellic from the list of medicines reimbursed by the Greek public payer, EOPYY (positive list). Cotellic is used to treat metastatic melanoma for patients with a certain type of abnormal “BRAF” gene.
Cotellic was included in the positive list and has therefore been reimbursed since February 2017. About 50 patients are currently on treatment with Cotellic in Greece.
According to Roche, the Greek government’s recent decision to enforce an additional 25% rebate for all new medicines is disproportionate and unfair. As a result, they decided to retract the drug, putting patients’ lives in jeopardy and setting a dangerous precedent for the pharmaceutical sector as a whole.
On November 1, 2017, Roche announced that it would continue to provide pro bono access to the patients using the drug.
Roche’s decision however does not undo the initial blackmail. Indeed, Roche has taken his path previously in Greece, back in 2011.
We are deeply concerned at the market power and freedom that pharmaceutical companies enjoy, and the implications of these factors on public health. Profit-driven unilateral decisions to retract potentially life-saving medicines which are under commercial monopoly are unacceptable and morally reprehensible.
We call on all stakeholders to:
- Actively engage in price negotiations to guarantee affordable access for the benefit of all patients
- Conduct these negotiations in a transparent and publicly accountable manner. Secrecy fosters blackmail and prevents patients from holding all parties accountable
- Refrain from unilateral actions which undermine the necessary trust between all parties
We remind that governments have tools at their disposal, such as compulsory licensing, so as to remedy excessive pricing abuse in defense of public interest. Access to better and affordable medicines for all patients must be determined through transparent and publicly accountable processes, rather than through charity-like marketing and corporate business strategies.
 A series of policy reforms stemming from the third bailout plan are included in L.4472/17. This rebate is described in article 87 of the law.
Access to Medicines Ireland
All-Ukrainian Network of PLWHA
Asociación por un Acceso Justo al Medicamento
Ellen ’t Hoen, LLM (Medicines Law & Policy | Global Health Unit, University Medical Centre Groningen)
GAT – Grupo de Ativistas em Tratamentos
Médecins du Monde Greece
Médecins Sans Frontières Greece