Greece's Health Minister accused Swiss drug maker Roche of blackmail after they withdrew a cancer drug from the market in response to mandatory discounts imposed by the Greek government. As part of a bailout deal with its international lenders, such as the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund, the Greek government earlier this year imposed a 25 percent levy on sales generated by new patented medicines. And more recently, another 25 percent levy was added on new medicines.
Roche confirmed this week that it has pulled cancer drug cobimetinib from Greece. The drug, marketed in the U.S. as Cotellic, is a MEK inhibitor approved in 2015 to be used in tandem with Zelboraf in patients with BRAF V600-mutation-positive advanced melanoma.
The drug maker took the step in a fight over a 25% rebate Greece recently imposed on branded drugs as part of its bailout plan with lenders. The market withdrawal was immediately denounced by Greek authorities.
“The provocative tactics used by Roche must be addressed with determination by all the political and social forces of the country and by all the European institutions,” Greek Health Minister Andreas Ksanthos said in a statement reported by EURACTIV.
Ksanthos and other authorities pledged to take steps against what he called “blackmail” by Roche, even as medical experts worried that other drug makers might follow Roche’s lead and pull important drugs.
Other unnamed companies have also told authorities they might be forced to pull drugs or not market new drugs in Greece, according to EUROACTIV.