Dimitris Giannakopoulos: 90 years in Greek medicine

01 Δεκεμβρίου 2014 | Investing in Greece
Interview with the Vice President and Deputy CEO of VIANEX




The contribution in the Greek economy of the company that holds the lead in the field of Greek medicine and its investment activity for the domestic and the international market.

You are the head of VIANEX a Greek pharmaceutical industry with a leading role in the field of medicine. Can you present us with numbers the footprint of the company on the domestic economy and society?
VIANEX continues to hold the lead in the field of Greek medicine, despite the difficult economic environment and the policies in the health sector, which lead mathematically Greek and foreign companies either to bankruptcy or withdrawal from Greece.



VIANEX in 2012 had a turnover of 240 million with profits of 27.6 million versus 30 million in 2011, with a turnover to 301.9 million euros. The direct contribution of the company in the national economy is reflected in a performance of 500 million euros in taxes the last 15 years.

Simultaneously, the strategic and timely selection of VIANEX to turn towards new markets and new products, in conjunction with the four privately owned local factories, betoken the business stability, are the issues that will empower and strengthen the company in order to face effectively all the inconveniences of the last five years.

The social footprint of VIANEX has to do with the offer of 1,200 jobs, which were maintained in full, despite the crisis, while no further reductions in wages had been done. Absolute priority for us is the respect to the public health and the patient, which is practically served through the production of reliable medications, without compromising on quality and effectiveness.

Which are the major investments that you have accomplished all these years in Greece? Which are your investing plans for the forthcoming years?
We have a family presence in the Greek medicine and drug market for over 90 years. My father Paul Giannakopoulos has founded FARMAGIAN in 1951, which 20 years later in 1971 has been renamed to VIANEX and became an S.A.

Milestones for the company are the four factories. The first, established in the National Road Athens-Lamia, includes production areas, packing department, quality control department with fully equipped laboratories and specially designed areas for safe storage. The second factory in Pallini specializes in the production of tablets and capsules. The third unit- this one also in Pallini-is specialized in the production of lyophilized injectable products. The fourth factory was established in 1999 with the purchase of the manufacturing plant of the Institute of Pharmaceutical Research and Technology in the Industrial Zone of Patras, for the production of antibiotics.

Apart from the investment sector in production VIANEX demonstrates its support for research and development. With an investment of 6 million euros, we have founded in 2007 Eldrug in order to produce the first original Greek medicine. In the doing VIANEX’s contribution is 50% together with a group of scientists from the University of Patras led by Mr John Matsoukas.
Eldrug is in the preclinical stage of a drug development concerning the multiple sclerosis, which has reached nowadays a high ripeness and seems to have the possibility of a potential vaccine. It has to be proven that this is the first formulation that regulates the immune system of people affected by multiple sclerosis, in contrast to currently available drugs that simply slow down the progression of the disease. In other words, in this case, from Greece will start the treatment that will change the lives of over 2.5 million people around the world!

The investment plans of VIANEX are not limited only in Greece. Our priority is to expand to the markets of the Balkans and Asia, notably China. There is already a strategic agreement with Lilly to focus on China, and soon we will announce a very important and exclusive partnership to be signed in China and it is expected to grow tenfold the annual turnover of our business.

You have recently announced a new huge deal with Lilly concerning the Chinese market. Can you provide us some additional information concerning this deal and the main goals that you intend to achieve?
It is true that last July we had announced a strategic deal with «Farmaserv-Lilly», that includes the production of 10 million units of the antibiotic vaccine Voncon (vancomycin) for serious infections that is going to be exported to the Chinese market. It is an investment of 1,5 million euros that is going to create 135 new jobs. Financially speaking, the deal is going to contribute 30 million to the company’s turnover and 8 to 10 million to its profitability. The deal with Lilly is going to expand to the production of new medicines for third parties.

How has the difficult economic conditions affected Vianex and the medicine sector?
The consequences of the PSI, the memorandum measures as rebate and clawback, as well as the reduction of the pharmaceutical market in Greece, have clearly hit the Greek drug companies.
VIANEX is also experiencing in the hardest way the consequences of these –Troika inspiration-measures that have significantly decreased the company’s profitability.
Nevertheless, the Greek pharmaceutical sector, remain perhaps the only productive pocket of the country, which continues to invest millions and strengthen its export activity.

You said that you did not proceed to layoffs and wage cuts. What led you to this decision?
The respect and recognition of our human resources that has contributed greatly to the successful course of VIANEX all these decades, is a non-negotiable value for us. The decision not to proceed with layoffs and salary reductions is also an act of resistance to the new reality that the troika is trying to implement. I believe that the contribution to the national economy is a national task, as only through creative investment strategy rather than fragmentation of the country's workforce we can reach the much-needed development.

What is your comment on the developments in the pharmaceuticals sector in Greece and the interventions promoted by the Government under the weight of memorandum obligations?
As it turns out the aim of troika, was to erase the Greek pharmaceutical sector from the country’s financial map. Unfortunately these efforts had been promoted and reinforced by the latter governments which enabled the relevant ministers to implement catastrophic measures for the Greek drug companies.

Mr. Andreas Loverdos by establishing the measure of substance prescriptions has “signed” the death of the Greek drug sector, while the current Minister of Health is doing his best in order to conclude the disaster in the most glorious way. The huge drop down to the public pharmaceutical budget by Mr. Georgiadis is going to bring shortages to the drug market, retirements of major Greek and foreign pharmaceutical companies from Greece, increased unemployment in the pharmaceutical industry, while the market will be flooded by dubious quality imported generics.

To conclude, what is your prediction for the recovery effort in the domestic economy? Which are your expectations of growth in the near future? What do you think should be done to address the crisis?
The country will take the development way, when bureaucracy and punitive policies towards healthy entrepreneurship will be permanently abandoned.

The Greek pharmaceutical industry, which contributes 2.8 billion in annual GDP and provides over 50,000 direct and indirect jobs, has to stop “suffering” this way. According to the FEIR for every 1,000 euros spent on medicines produced in Greece, GDP grew by 3,420 euros!

It takes vision, plan and political will to provide the country's bargaining power and Greece to regain the place it deserves in the new international environment.