Greek crisis creates medicine shortages

June 6, 2012 by Helene Colliopoulou

Greece's highly uncertain future has forced businesses into a quasi hand-to-mouth existence, with one of the most alarming effects a shortage of medicines, including for the seriously ill.

"Pharmaceutical companies are no longer interested in selling to Greece where hospitals and pharmacies are in debt," said Kostas Lourantos, head of the pharmacies' association in the Attica region that includes the capital Athens.

"This is the case with Roche, Bayer, and Sanofi" and other big pharma companies, he said. "Drug prices are also very low compared to other European countries."

He added that there are currently shortages of medicines such as antibiotics, antidepressants and insulin for diabetes sufferers.

Ahead of elections on June 17 that may result in Greece departing the eurozone, business as usual is already a thing of the past as firms in all sectors brace themselves for potential economic chaos.

"Everybody is just waiting for the new government. This political uncertainty is exacerbating an already bad , with loans down to zero," Eleftherios Kourtalis, head of the federation, told AFP.

For importers in particular the situation is drastic, with their suppliers abroad increasingly demanding that they be paid up-front while Greek firms can still pay in euros, instead of on credit.

Last week Euler Hermes, the world's number one trade credit insurer, said that it was no longer providing cover for firms exporting goods to Greece, following a similar move by Coface, owned by French bank Natixis.

"These decisions put a bomb under the foundations of the economy, rattling the basis for production and commerce," said Christina Sakellaridi, president of the Greek exporters' federation.

The result, she said, was a "reduction in imports of primary goods needed by Greek manufacturers."

Worst-hit is health care, a sector which is also grappling with problems of its own, most notably state EOPYY's problems in reimbursing pharmacies for medicines sold to consumers at a much-reduced rate.

"EOPYY owes us 750 million euros dating back to January 2012, adding to debts of 250 million euros from last year," said Lourantos from the pharmacies' association.

The government is trying to help, meanwhile, with the health ministry recently freeing up loans needed to buy emergency medication, while EOPYY last week paid off 200 million euros of its arrears.

Following several strikes, pharmacies recently began increasing the pressure by demanding that patients supposedly insured by EOPYY pay the full price for medicines.

"Many patients cannot pay," said Vassiliki Kalyva, the owner of a in central Athens.

Those with serious illnesses including cancer "are finding it hard to find their drugs because they are very expensive and neither hospitals nor pharmacies can afford to buy them."

Explore further: Google to settle drug probe for $500 million

Related Stories

Google to settle drug probe for $500 million

August 24, 2011
Google will pay $500 million to settle charges that it sold advertisements to Canada-based online pharmacies which marketed drugs to Americans in violation of US law, US justice officials announced Wednesday.

Recommended for you

Vaccinating against psoriasis, allergies and Alzheimer's a possibility, research shows

October 23, 2017
Research from the Universities of Dundee and Oxford has shown how combining the tetanus vaccine with a viral particle that normally affects cucumbers can be used to treat psoriasis and allergies, and may even protect against ...

Fighting opioid addiction in primary care—new study shows it's possible

October 18, 2017
For many of the 2 million Americans addicted to opioids, getting good treatment and getting off prescription painkillers or heroin may seem like a far-off dream.

With no morphine, 25 million die in pain each year: report

October 13, 2017
Every year, some 25 million people—one in ten of them children—die in serious pain that could have been alleviated with morphine at just a few cents per dose, researchers said Friday.

Study finds few restrictions on Rx opioids through Medicare

October 9, 2017
Medicare plans place few restrictions on the coverage of prescription opioids, despite federal guidelines recommending such restrictions, a new Yale study finds. The research results highlight an untapped opportunity for ...

Nocebo effect: Does a drug's high price tag cause its own side effects?

October 5, 2017
Pricey drugs may make people more vulnerable to perceiving side effects, a new study suggests—and the phenomenon is not just "in their heads."

Pre-packaged brand version of compounded medication to prevent preterm births costs 5,000 percent more

October 2, 2017
Preventing a preterm birth could cost as little as $200 or as much as $20,000, depending on which one of two medications a doctor orders, according to a new analysis from Harvard Medical School.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.