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HAPCO: Medical Conferences in Greece May Face New Restriction

SFEE General Manager Mihalis Himonas with HAPCO's president, Irini Toli; member, Kostas Karagiorgakis; and member, Georgia Tsatsou.

SFEE General Manager Mihalis Himonas with HAPCO’s president, Irini Toli; member, Kostas Karagiorgakis; and member, Georgia Tsatsou.

Τhe Hellenic Association of Pharmaceutical Companies (SFEE) recently said that it is willing to cooperate with the Hellenic Association of Professional Congress Organizers (HAPCO) in order to explore ways to face a possible restriction to the number of medical conferences allowed to be held in Greece.

According to a draft bill of the Health Ministry, only a specific number of domestic medical congress events will be allowed to be hosted in Greece per year. The provision has been included in the draft law by the Central Board of Health (KESY), the ministry’s advisory body.

If the bill should pass, only 43 specialty scientific / pharmaceutical companies in Greece will be allowed to hold medical conferences on a national level per year, substantially reducing the number of Greek medical conferences in the country. In general, scientific/pharmaceutical companies in Greece (specialty companies and smaller companies) amount to over 1,000.

“This new development will have a negative impact on the operation of not only conference organizing companies but it will affect the whole range of hotels and other businesses that have provided services to these events and it will shrink the tourism economy of Athens and the region,” HAPCO’s president, Irini Toli, said on Thursday during HAPCO’s 8th Panhellenic Conference in Athens, adding that the restriction reduces the number of visitors of high economic level (conference delegates) in Greece.

Considering that medical conferences are of educational nature, where the latest achievements and upcoming challenges in the field of medicine are discussed by scientists and research professionals, the law is expected to have a negative impact on the provision of medical/pharmaceutical information and on the
training/education of the country’s doctors and health personnel.

“We at SFEE have a purpose and that is medical education and your purpose is conference tourism,” SFEE GM Mihalis Himonas told the Greek PCOs in the audience of HAPCO’s conference during a round table discussion.

“A common line is therefore needed between medical education and conference tourism… Both sides have to reach a point that will be win-win situation for both,” Himonas told the Greek PCO’s, adding that SFEE sees them as “colleagues” and he invited them to work together.

HAPCO to participate in joint committee

Himonas then announced that soon a joint committee of three PCOs, three representatives of scientific health entities and three pharmaceutical companies will meet in Athens to discuss ways to overcome the problem.

For some time now Greek PCO’s have been up against restrictions for the organization of domestic medical conferences due to rules set by the National Organization for Medicines (EOF).

EOF is the body for the approval of medical conferences in Greece. Once a PCO receives approval from EOF it then submits its request to SFEE for approval.

According to HAPCO, representatives from the Greek Health Ministry, EOF and KESY declined to attend the conference to discuss the new draft law.

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About the Author
Nikos is Greek-American born in New York, USA, and has lived in Greece for over 30 years. He is the managing editor of Greece's leading monthly travel and tourism guide, the Greek Travel Pages (GTP) since June 2008 and of news site GTP Headlines since its launch in September 2012. Nikos has also served as international press officer for the City of Athens and for the mayor. He has a degree in Mass Media and Communications, specializing in Journalism. Nikos is a native English speaker and speaks Greek fluently.

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