Another heated debate took place in the Hellenic Parliament on Thursday, when the opposition requested a parliamentary inquiry to determine whether government ministers have been guilty of breach of faith. New Democracy targeted Minister of Health Andreas Xanthos, Alternate Health Minister Pavlos Polakis and former Health Minister (now serving as Minister of the Interior and Administrative Reconstruction) Panagiotis Kouroublis, for their implication in the Novartis bribery scandal.
Ten former high ranking politicians, including two Prime Ministers and the Health Ministers who served between 2011 and 2015 have been under investigation for breach of faith, including accepting bribes from the Swiss drug manufacturer, which has been involved in a series of bribery scandals around the world. Pharmaceutical spending has been one of the most serious factors affecting Greece’s fiscal problems, with reports of overpricing being circulated for years.
The latest inquiry shed light on the way large pharmaceuticals – most notably Novartis – have been buying their way in various markets, including Greece, bribing officials to ensure that their products enter the national pharmaceutical scheme on inflated prices. During Thursday’s debate, the opposition claimed that the prosecutors’ report on the scandal raised questions about the Health ministry’s medicine pricing policy in 2015, when Mr Kouroublis was in charge. Minister Kouroublis deemed the opposition’s motion as a “monumental effort” to create a “political distraction,” from the implication of its own MPs in the scandal. The motion was voted down by the majority of MPs, belonging to the ruling party SYRIZA and its junior coalition partner, Independent Greeks.