Greece as a point of reference
Despite all that has been said and written about the Novartis affair in Greece, it is all still at the level of speculation and, much of the time, nothing but malicious rumor. And it is by no means a certainty that everything in this case will be proven. What we can be sure of, however, is that for the Swiss pharmaceutical company, whose scandalous practices are being investigated the world over, Greece has been point of reference. Simply put, this means that the prices of medicines in our country have served as the standard by which prices were determined in other countries, and not just European ones. An apparently negligible price increase in Greece – a small market, but, at the same time, an expanded one as well, because of a long tradition of consuming many medicines – would also lead, by default, to price hikes in other markets, which would be far more lucrative for the Swiss company. Therefore Novartis, and any other company for that matter, had many reasons to seek out willing politicians, doctors and journalists and those that are prone to making concessions. Above all, it had enough money to tempt those who could be tempted. Of course we would all like Greece to be a point of reference. But not for the reasons used by Novartis, which bring dishonor to politics, the medical profession, journalism and public life in general. We always like to say with a large dose of wishful thinking that Greece is a point of reference, not just for the Balkans or the Eastern Mediterranean, but as a guiding light and a leader – an example to other countries. We would like our country to be a point of reference when its politicians, doctors, journalists and others honor the moral codes of their professions. We would like for this country’s politicians to be viewed as an example because they reach out to the other side of the political aisle and engage in dialogue, and because of their steady refusal to be divisive and use national issues for political gain. We would also like Greece’s leaders to be a point of reference because they remember what they instituted five or 10 years earlier and do not, for example, dismiss protected witnesses as members of anti-establishment groups. The politicians themselves are the ones that voted through legislation that stipulates the protection of witnesses in corruption cases. Are we asking for too much? Well, if we don’t ask for too much, we won’t even get the too little.