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Paying their bills: A novel idea in Southern Europe

Posted Jun 26 2013 8:03pm

For years some have argued that Americans subsidize health care in the rest of the world by paying high prices for drugs. European and other governments take advantage of the fact that profits in the US market are enough to cover the cost of drug development and use their leverage to get lower prices. There are different ways to look at this issue; some think US payers get ripped off and should pay the lower prices that are available abroad.

But lately things have gotten a little more absurd, with drug makers “selling” their wares to cash-strapped European countries but then not getting paid for a year or more –if ever. Greece appears to be the worst offender, and drug companies have been reluctant to cut them off. Spain has been acting similarly as it struggles with economic calamity.

Spain owes more than 6 billion Euros to pharmaceutical companies. It has been considering new ways to cut costs but the industry has been pushing back. Now Spain has come up with a new plan: cut its drug budget but guarantee that it will pay its bills. What a novel idea!

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