February 3, 2023

Athens News

News in English from Greece

Medicine shortage in Greece drives patients crazy amid wave of seasonal viruses

The problem of a shortage of medicines in Greece is growing every day against the backdrop of a wave of virus outbreaks, and the threats of the Minister of Health against pharmaceutical warehouses, doctors and pharmacies directly do not help at all.

At a time when seasonal viruses – the flu, RSV and others – are seeing a huge rise in incidence among children and adults, thousands of citizens across the country have gone on “safaris” in search of even simple, over-the-counter medicines for fever and cough. In parallel, there is a high demand for children’s medicines against the backdrop of a seasonal outbreak of diseases. The current situation is evidenced by the fact that on Christmas days children’s clinics were overcrowded due to influenza and coronavirus, which sent dozens of children to the hospital.

According to media reports, there is a serious shortage of antipyretics, cough suppressants, inhalers, analgesics, cough syrups, as well as antibiotics for the treatment of acute respiratory diseases. Citizens report that pharmacists even shared the contents of a medicine box between two customers to meet demand.

Several people reported that pharmacies dispensed only one package of cheap depon per customer, others that they had to visit several pharmacies to find such a package. A pack of 20 tablets for fever and mild to moderate pain is priced at 2 euros.

According to the newspaper “Democracy“, in short supply are such basic drugs as:

  • Augmentin
  • Claricid
  • deposit
  • Algofren
  • Aerolin
  • Flixotide
  • Seretide
  • Nexium
  • Tamiflu

TV channel open reported that the situation is deteriorating as, in addition to shortages of antibiotics, there are also serious shortages of heart, respiratory, diabetes medications and assisted reproduction.

The problem with medicines is observed not only in Athens, but also in the region, where it is even greater. According to representatives of pharmacists, in Rethymno (Crete), the shortage reaches 80%. “Before, it was not that we had from 70% to 80% of the shortage of medicines of all categories. “Never before have we had such a shortage in all categories of drugs, from children’s syrups and simple paracetamol to antibiotics, inhalants and other drug categories where everything is in short supply” said Kostas Vardiambasis, president of the Pharmaceutical Association of Rethymno.

The situation is no less tragic in Larisa, where on duty pharmacies do not have basic medicines to supply citizens. “The picture is hopeless, there are pharmacies that we were told that they could not work during duty hours. Essential medicines such as simple antibiotics, paracetamol, antipyretic syrups and inhalants are in short supply,” said Athanasios Koutsoukis, president of the Larisa Pharmaceutical Association.

Health Minister Pleuris: “They will regret it”

Health Minister Thanos Pleuris confirmed on Friday shortages, especially of pediatric drugs and antibiotics for respiratory diseases, saying there are complaints that parent companies (manufacturers) are pushing their drugs to where they sell the most.

“With more orders and control over the pharmaceutical industry, we are trying to solve this problem,” he said in an interview with the TV channel. Skai. “We have banned the export of 260 medicines and at the same time we control pharmaceutical warehouses. Whoever stores stocks will never work in the pharmaceutical field again. A case will be filed,” he threatened. “Those pharmacies that are holding stocks must report this immediately, otherwise they will regret it. Their cases will be taken to criminal court, and the enterprises will be closed,” he added.

The lawyer, who is the health minister, also accused doctors of prescribing too many antibiotics, apparently ignoring the fact that many seasonal viruses cause inflammation of the ears or lungs, especially in children.

Doctors: the Minister of Health is wrong

For its part, the Panhellenic Medical Association warned the leadership of the Ministry of Health that it was “moving in the wrong direction” and referred to “a serious shortage of drugs that is expected in 2023 around the world.”

“At a time when all states are preparing drug markets and supply chains for huge shortages caused by the pandemic and production cuts in countries such as India and China, the leadership of the Greek Ministry of Health not only does not give due importance to the repeated warnings of the PMA, but also moves into in the opposite direction, expanding vaccination without the necessary prescriptions,” the association said in a statement.

The CBP speaks of “an unscientific and extremely dangerous practice, since the same indications do not apply to all citizens. And, of course, only a doctor is able to evaluate and refer a patient.”

Reasons for shortage

According to a medical news website healthreport.grthere are 3* main causes of drug shortages:

  1. Recently, there has been a decrease in the production of medicines at the global level, which is also associated with a pandemic, during which there was a shortage of raw materials.
  2. Parallel exports are one of the main reasons pharmacy shelves are empty. This phenomenon is mainly developed by pharmacies that export Greek medicines to Europe in order to achieve better prices and thus make more profit. The cost of parallel exports can reach 600 million per year, depending on the number of drugs exported.
  3. Some pharmaceutical companies supply the Greek market with fewer drugs than needed to supply Greek patients. That is why the Minister of Health recently came to an agreement with the sector to increase the number of drugs that are imported and are in short supply in Greece.

Drug inventory checks and fines

The Greek National Organization for Medicines (EOF) announced on Thursday the suspension of drug wholesale licenses for two drug warehouses in northern Greece that did not agree to submit an inspection of their stocks. The suspension is valid for a certain period of time until EOF checks them.

PS I believe the government will release “Pharma Pass” soon…

*There is also a 4th reason, which was not indicated in the healthreport.gr publication, but which the minister clearly alludes to – this, of course, is Putin.

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