Pharmaceuticals manufacturing in Greece
According to data, published by the Greek government, through the years the country’s pharmaceutical industry has remained a relatively strong sector, annually contributing about EUR 2,8 billion to GDP. It is considered to be one of the few industries in Greece that has weathered the 2009 crisis relatively well in terms of expanding workforces and companies.
During the COVID-19 pandemic the Greek pharmaceutical industry proved that it has a strong manufacturing base, which helped guarantee abundant supply of many essential pharmaceuticals. Industry representatives claim that while many countries were forced to suspend exports of medicines and medical supplies by shutting their borders altogether in order to meet their domestic needs, Greece did not experience severe shortages of medicines and raw materials. A recent study shows that more than 3 million patients and insured people in Greece had unhindered access to locally produced drugs.
“The pandemic has shown that services – despite their undeniable value – are first to be affected during a crisis. Strong foundations in any country are built based on industry and manufacturing. Turning to them is imperative. Specifically for Greece, which is exiting a long period of deindustrialization, growth is an intertwined factor for the reconstruction of the manufacturing industry. It is necessary to reduce our dependence on imports and – where possible – make better use of what we produce locally. It is imperative to strengthen key sectors that create new, permanent and well-paid jobs and which safeguard against the phenomena of brain drain”, the Panhellenic Union of Pharmaceutical Industries (PEF) states.
PEF data also shows that Greek medical products (packaged medicaments) as an export sector come second only to refined petroleum products. According to company reports the country exports its pharmaceutical products to over 100 countries, including the Middle East, with the sector employing approximately 11 000 highly specialised workers in addition to a total workforce of 50 000. Exports account for some 20% of the industry’s turnover.
A report by the Hellenic Association of Pharmaceutical Industry says that the sector’s growth strategy is based on four basic pillars: exports, in the sense of the enhancement of the country’s presence in the international markets and the maximisation of the manufacturing capacity; investment in R&D in collaboration with research institutions both in Greece and abroad; specialised production of active pharmaceutical ingredients, reformulation and innovations for existing molecules; and development of novel production methods. Partnerships with originator companies either via transfer of knowledge or licensing, contract manufacturing, promotion or distribution, are also considered important strategic goals. Experts believe that the internal Greek market is yet to harness the potential of branded generics.
As for the challenges faced by the pharmaceutical industry, the country’s economy remains a significant problem both to the sector and the healthcare system in general.
According to the Hellenic Association of Pharmaceutical Industry, as the market is reshaped, the industry faces increased competition and consequently a margin squeeze.
A research by IHS Markit states that in 2015 Greece’s pharmaceutical exports were the 19th largest of European countries and 31st largest in the world. It highlights that several legal amendments have put significant pressure on the prices of generics and off-patent medicines in general. “There is, in general, growing competition in the generic pharmaceuticals sector from cheaper production countries, for instance India, this makes it more difficult for Greek companies both at home and in other countries, although they have the quality seal associated with the EU and its strict regulation on manufacturing”, states IHS Markit’s study.
Pharmaceuticals manufacturing and distribution is one of the most dynamic sectors of the Greek industry. The supply chain for medicinal products consists of pharmaceutical companies (manufacturers as well as importers), wholesalers (both storage and distribution) and pharmacies. Generally, pharmaceutical products, except drugs for hospital use, which are supplied only through direct sales to hospitals, follow the chain pharmaceutical company-wholesalers-pharmacy.
According to the 2018 report “The Pharmaceutical Market in Greece – Facts and Figures”, jointly developed by the Foundation for Economic & Industrial Research and the Hellenic Association of Pharmaceutical Industry, with a pharmacy density of 97 pharmacies per 100 000 inhabitants, Greece comes first among the EU-28 average of 31 pharmacies per 100 000 inhabitants. The report states that in 2017 a total of 10 420 pharmacies operated in Greece, out of which 3739 (36%) were located in the region of Attica. The number of wholesalers in 2017 amounted to 128 compared to 120 in 2016.
Eurostat data shows that in terms of value (ex-factory prices) pharmaceutical production in Greece was estimated at EUR 954 million in 2017, registering a growth of approximately 6,6% in comparison to 2016. A significant increase of the industrial index of domestic pharmaceutical production was recorded in 2017 and 2018. The turnover of pharmaceutical manufacturing also rose in 2018. The gross value added (GVA) of domestic pharmaceutical production in 2017 is estimated at EUR 668 million, an increase of 9,7% compared to 2016, and accounted for a share of 3,0% in the overall manufacturing sector.
In 2017 sales of medicinal products to pharmacies and wholesalers (in values) amounted to EUR 4,0 billion, showing a decrease of 1,8% compared to 2016. On the contrary, sales to hospitals and National Organisation for Healthcare Provision (EOPYY) pharmacies amounted to EUR 1,8 billion in 2017, recording an increase of 1,9% compared to the previous year. Approximately 68,8% of the total sold production was supplied to wholesalers and private pharmacies, while the remaining 31,2% went to hospitals and EOPYY pharmacies.
Data published by the Hellenic Association of Pharmaceutical Industry shows that in 2018 imports and exports of medicinal products amounted to EUR 2,8 billion and EUR 1,4 billion, respectively. The export of pharmaceuticals accounted for 4,3% of the total Greek export in 2018, compared to 4,0% in 2017. Correspondingly, imports accounted for 5,0% of the total imports of the country, with downward trend over the last three years.
The Greek pharmaceutical industry imports from 61 countries and exports to 141 countries. The most important trading partners in terms of imports are Germany (27%), France (10,7%) and Switzerland (10%), while on the side of exports are again Germany (18,8%), United Kingdom (14,8%) and Cyprus (7,9%).
In the following section of the article we are publishing a short presentation of some of the major Greek companies, active in this sector.
Adelco’s activities include licensing, manufacturing, marketing and distribution of pharmaceuticals (branded generic and unique combinations) and cosmetics. The company occupies a modern production unit of 10 000 m2, with 95 skilled employees. Adelco has a well-organized group of representatives throughout Greece and internationally, including a representative office in Jordan covering the MENA region and an office in Melbourne, covering the Oceania region. The company’s portfolio features solid, semi-solid and liquid forms (tablets, capsules, syrups, cream, sterile injections), as well as an extensive range of hair and body care products.
Arriani Pharmaceuticals was established in 1997 and is active in 4 different fields of the market: orphan, oncology and hospital pharmaceutical products; prescription medicinal products for private practice; non-prescription medicines and self-medication; dental products. The company has successfully expanded its activity in the international market through long-lasting collaborations. Currently, Arriani’s priorities include investing in manufacturing, promoting and establishing new innovative products, created thanks to the company’s research & development team of Greek and foreign scientists.
DEMO develops, manufactures and sells pharmaceutical products. The company’s production site, situated in Krioneri, Attica, features state-of-the-art facilities taking up 45 000 m2 and a hi-tech quality control laboratory. DEMO’s product range consists of many injectable generic pharmaceutical formulations from several therapeutic categories including: injectable products of all forms such us liquid injectables in glass ampoules, vials and bottles, sterile powders and freeze-dried formulations, lyophilised products, emulsions, penems, penicillins, cephalosporins. The company’s sales network spreads over to Europe, Asia, Africa, the Middle East, South America and Oceania, exporting 82% of its annual production. DEMO is among the official suppliers of the United Nations, UNICEF, World Health Organization, MSF and the International Red Cross. The Greek company has 1850 representatives in 85 countries worldwide and staff of 870 employees.
Elpen, which has an annual turnover of EUR 150 million, employs more than 850 and ranks 6th among over 400 companies in the Greek market. Having been exporting its products since 1990, the company has international presence in more than 60 countries worldwide and a subsidiary in Berlin. Elpen specializes in manufacturing of branded generics and originator products, respiratory, oncology drugs and antimicrobials. Elpen’s R&D department occupies facilities with a total area of 1000 m2 and its activities are focused on cardiology, endocrinology, cancer, respiratory diseases, etc. The company’s plant is equipped with full manufacturing lines for oral solids, oral liquids, dry powder inhalation, injectable, lyophilised products, as well as a dedicated facility for the production of oral solid penicillin.
Faran offers therapeutic solutions for a wide range of diseases in the area of oncology, haematology, nephrology, orthopaedics, rheumatology, endocrinology, international medicine and gynaecology. The company was founded in 1950 and reported a turnover of EUR 37,2 million for 2019. Among Faran’s partners there are major international companies such as Novartis, Sandoz, IBSA, etc. Additionally, the company develops new therapeutic approaches to diseases with unmet medical needs in collaboration with international research institutes. Its headquarters with 78 employees are located in Kifissia.
Galenica was founded in 1974 by pharmacists Denis Varelas and Basile Tamvacas. The pharmaceutical company very soon became one of the most dynamic ones in the sector with impressive rates of growth and development. Galenica states that it is strongly focused on acquiring know-how and marketing ethical products through partnerships with well established foreign research-based enterprises. The company maintains partnerships with several universities and research organizations both in Greece and abroad, and takes part in the implementation of numerous clinical studies.
Currently, one of Galenica’s priorities is to expand to other European markets, mainly in the Balkan region. Over the last few years, Galenica has developed a steady business activity in Romania, transferring its know-how to the local market. Recently, major investments in the field of biotechnology have been made.
The company started its activity in pharmaceutical biotechnology in 1997 and its goal was to combine the rapid progress in science with a successful and innovative business venture, thus paving the way for the creation of a new market. Genesis Pharma’s product range comprises mainly innovative pharmaceutical products in the therapeutic areas of oncology, haematology, central nervous system, gastroenterology and nephrology. Among its partners there are two of the biggest in terms of market capitalization companies – Biogen and Celgene.
In 1999, the company expanded through the creation of Genesis Pharma (Cyprus) Ltd. and later on entered Southeast European markets, such as Bulgaria, Romania and Croatia. Genesis Pharma (Cyprus) Ltd., an affiliate company, is now responsible for all international markets and is currently operating through its subsidiaries in Bulgaria, Romania and Croatia with the latter entity acting as a hub-office covering the Adriatic region and Malta.
Innovis Pharma is a Greek pharmaceutical company delivering high-quality, patient-centric healthcare solutions. It manufactures a large portfolio of prescription medicines across a broad range of therapeutic areas such as hypertension, dyslipidemia, heart failure, etc., that improve health and wellbeing, prevent illness and have the potential to save lives. The company’s range also includes more than 15 prescription products for conditions such as depression, emotional and behavioural disorders, anxiety disorders, psychosis, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s disease, epilepsy. Innovis Pharma offers gastro/ob-gyn/urology solutions, pharmaceutical products in the fields of oncology, hematology and nephrology. The company is also known for manufacturing cosmetics and specialised probiotic supplements.
Lavipharm is an integrated group of companies specialised in the research, development, production, import, marketing and sales, distribution, wholesaling and retailing of pharmaceutical, dermocosmetic and healthcare products in Greece with strong international presence. The company, founded in 1911, supplies the country’s healthcare professionals with effective and safe pharmaceutical solutions.
In the mid-eighties Lavipharm established its first research & development department, focused on pharmaceutical technology and new forms of drug delivery systems in particular. In the 90s the company extended its research activities beyond Greece and set up a pilot production site in New Jersey. In the year 2000 Lavipharm inaugurated a new research facility near Princeton University, thus gaining direct access to the most distinguished scientists and the largest pharmaceutical companies in the world. Currently the company’s R&D is focused on pioneer technologies of particle design, drug and cosmetic delivery systems, as well as on the development of natural products.
Vianex is among the leading pharmaceutical companies in Greece. Established in 1971, it operates 4 privately owned manufacturing plants. The company’s range incorporates prescription and non-prescription drugs, nutritional supplements, products for infant nutrition, diagnostics and cosmetics. Vianex manufactures, imports, packages, markets and distributes a large number of well-known pharmaceuticals. It maintains strong strategic partnerships and alliances with several major pharmaceutical enterprises across the globe, exporting registered products to 35 countries in Europe, the Middle East, Africa and Asia.
Founded in 1980 by a team of young scientists and successful businessmen, Vioser manufactures medicinal products (terminally sterilized infusion and injection solutions, irrigation and urologic solutions) and medical devices (infusion and transfusion sets). The company’s factory, which is located in Trikala and includes a production zone, management, purchasing and service departments, as well as warehouses for active substances, packaging materials and finished products, is situated on a total area of 36 000 m2 with buildings covering 14 500 m2.
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