The Wall Street Journal

Roche Keeps Drugs From Strapped Greek Hospitals
The Wall Street Journal

Swiss drug giant Roche Holding AG has stopped delivering its drugs for cancer and other diseases to some state-funded hospitals in Greece that haven’t paid their bills, and may take similar steps elsewhere, a stark example of how the European debt crisis that has jolted global financial markets is having a direct effect on consumers.

There are hospitals « who haven’t paid their bills in three or four years, » Mr. Schwan said. « There comes a point where the business is not sustainable anymore. » Roche may need to adopt the same measures in Spain. Some state-funded hospitals in Portugal and Italy have also fallen far behind on payments

Roche isn’t the first pharmaceutical company to stop supplies to some Greek buyers. Denmark’s Novo Nordisk S/A last year stopped shipping certain brands of insulin after Greece said it would cut the prices by more than a quarter. The cutoff lasted a few weeks, until Greece agreed to less onerous price reductions. Novo Nordisk continued shipping low-cost generic insulin throughout, but it was sharply criticized by diabetes groups and others for halting supplies of the more expensive products.

Greek hospitals have large debts to many drug companies, according to the Hellenic Association of Pharmaceutical Companies, or SFEE. As of June 30 this year, Greek’s state-financed hospitals had paid for just 37% of the €1.9 billion ($2.62 billion) worth of drugs delivered by SFEE member companies in the 18 months to June, 2011, the organization said in a recent report.