Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis’ meeting with the heads of companies and associations, members of the International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers and Associations (IFPMA)

Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis met this morning at Maximos Mansion with the heads of companies and associations, members of the International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers and Associations (IFPMA). The introductory statements by the Prime Minister and IFPMA President and Pfizer Chief Executive Officer Albert Bourla at the beginning of the meeting follow:

Kyriakos Mitsotakis: Good morning. Let me officially welcome you to the Prime Minister’s office in what I hope is going to be a productive working session. Let me again welcome you to Greece. I think it is an important initiative that you have taken, dear Albert, and it is indeed a privilege for us to be able to host you here today. I think this meeting will give us an opportunity to discuss more potential synergies between your companies and our government, both at the level of our national policies, but also at the level of possible interventions which take place at the EU level.

We are in a complicated environment where we literally need to… We feel that sometimes we need to square the circle by providing our citizens access to both innovative but also generic medicines at the best possible price to make sure that we protect ourselves against disruptions in the supply chains, but at the same time to ensure that we continue to favour innovation and offer companies investing in a drug discovery the necessary predictability to allocate significant resources towards the development of new innovative drugs.

Of course, we have with us here half of the cabinet to present to you, first of all, the business environment in Greece. I had a chance to talk a little bit about this yesterday, but we have a couple of presentations and then some more specific thoughts about how we can work, possibly work together to foster life science innovation in Greece, which is one of our areas where we want to place a particular emphasis.

I don’t want to take more of your time with introductory remarks. I’m sure you’ll have a lot of comments which we will try to answer as succinctly as we can. Let me give the floor to Albert, welcome you again to Greece, and thank you for bringing such a distinguished group of global healthcare leaders to our country.

Albert Bourla: Thank you very much, Prime Minister. Thank you for the warm welcome. It is really overwhelming to be here in this very historic building and to have not only you, but also members of your cabinet here. We have here the CEOs of the largest pharmaceutical companies in the world, that are members of the International Federation of Pharmaceutical Association. We are having our annual meeting and we have chosen to come to Greece.

One of the reasons we are coming to Greece is because Greece has a steadfast support for innovation. At the European level, it is one of the countries that we feel that takes very clear positions when it comes to important aspects of driving innovation, like intellectual property, like access to medicines. We want to make a statement by visiting here, this country, about how pleased we are and how we would like to cooperate with you.

We are about to enter a period of ‘scientific renaissance’, where because of advancements in biology and at the same time advancements in technology, we are going to see significant medical innovation in the next 10 years. Of course, this is translated into a significant number of investments.

Right now, we estimate that more than $250 billion of R&D was invested by the pharmaceutical industry, at large by companies that are here, last year. At this stage, the lion’s share of these investments stays with the United States. Twenty years ago, the difference between the level of investments in the United States and Europe was approximately $2 billion, so more or less were the same. In 2023, probably will be in excess of $50 billion in favour of the US. This is, I think, a lost opportunity for Europe.

Of course, within Europe, Greece also, I think, is under-indexed in terms of research investment of pharmaceutical here. This is something that we would like to discuss. I’m sure that you and your cabinet will present all the opportunities and why Greece is a very good environment for research, including pharmaceutical research.

What plays significant role for us as we are considering our investments are several things, but they can crystallise into three big areas. One, it is pro-innovation policies, and particularly the protection of intellectual property. When other industrial segments, their investments are tangible. When you speak about energy, their investments are going to refine oil or to extract gas or to harvest the sun. When you speak about the auto industry, it is manufacturing site to build the cars. In our case, most of our investments are translated into a formula on a piece of paper. It is extremely important if those investments need to happen, someone needs to feel that this intangible property investment is protected.

In the last few years, we have seen significant setbacks in terms of voices that are attacking the concept of intellectual property. In the World Trade Organisation, we were very pleased to see that the proposal to waive intellectual property didn’t pass. But as we were celebrating that, we see now that the European Commission comes with some proposals that we are clearly opposing to them. We are not the only ones. We had the chance to meet with heads of states. I met with Chancellor Scholz just a couple of months ago, and he made very clear that Germany is opposing those policies. We met several of us with President Macron, and he made very clear that France is opposing those statements. We know that Greece also is very, very much into the field of innovation. That’s one area that’s extremely important to us.

Of course, areas like access of medicines at prices that reward innovation is also something that we take seriously into consideration when we try to invest. And the regulations that can make clinical research easier and remove bureaucratic barriers that may exist is also something extremely important.

Those are the topics that we would like to bring to your attention. And, of course, seek your support, as you said, at national level and at European level, where Greece’s voice from being not very respected has become to being one of the most trusted and respected voices, very influential. That’s the result of everything that was able to accomplish the country coming from this dark period of the financial recession.

We know that and we think it is very important for you and your cabinet to understand what really can drive the competitiveness of Europe and, of course, of Greece. I understand from your side also you would like to, and we are all eager to hear the opportunities and the specific ideas for investments in Greece.

Kyriakos Mitsotakis: One very quick response to what you said, which is related to the European agenda you put on the table. The issues related to European competitiveness are at the heart of our campaign rhetoric in light of the next European elections. I’m saying this because for us, for my government, but also for the European People’s Party, this needs to be at the top of our priorities for the next European electoral cycle. We’re losing competitiveness in Europe, we’re failing to attract cutting-edge investment, we lag behind leading innovation indicators, certainly vis-a-vis the US, and this is something that needs to be rectified.

We will certainly put a lot of pressure on the other European institutions, especially the Commission, to focus on these issues. We have two reports coming up which will be discussed at our level related to competitiveness and the functioning of the single market, which in our mind is particularly important because it is not functioning as well as sometimes we think.

From our side, from the side of the Greek government, and as far as I’m concerned personally, to the extent that I represent my country at the European Council, these issues will be at the front and centre of our agenda for the next European electoral cycle.

The meeting was attended, on behalf of the Greek government, by the Minister of Health Adonis Georgiadis, the Minister of Development Kostas Skrekas, the Minister of State Akis Skertsos, the Alternate Minister of Economy and Finance Nikos Papathanasis, Alternate Minister of Health Irini Agapidaki, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Kostas Fragogiannis, Deputy Minister of Health Marios Themistocleous, Deputy Minister of Development Maximos Senetakis, Head of the Prime Minister’s Economic Office Alexis Patelis, the Special Secretary for Long-Term Planning Yannis Mastrogeorgiou, the Head of the High Level Advisory Committee on Artificial Intelligence, Professor Constantinos Daskalakis, the President of ESETEK Professor Spyros Artavanis-Tsakonas, Vice President of ESETEK Aristides-Thomas Doxiadis, member of the working group ‘A Roadmap for Creating an Innovation-Based Biopharma Industry in Greece’ Simos Simeonidis and the Prime Minister’s Advisor for Health, Vassilis Kontozamanis.