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Greek Cancer Patients in Dire Need of Drugs as Health System Collapses

Cancer patients are in dire need of live-saving drugs as the health system in debt-ridden Greece collapses. Cancer-patients supporting NGOs, and pharmacists report of serious shortages of the expensive drugs against cancer due to a) public spending cuts b) reluctance of pharmacists to stock out of fear they won’t be paid by the insurance funds c) reluctance of pharmacists to give prescription medicine on credit due to state outstanding debts and d) financial inability on the side of patients to push 1,500-2,000 euro over the pharmacy counter and request to be redeemed by the insurance fund.

The head of the Cancer Sufferers Volunteer Organization, Zoi Grammatoglou, told Skai radio that there have been cases of patients cancelling their chemotherapy because they could not afford to continue the treatment.

9.5 Million Insurers as Hostages

Due to the high outstanding debts of the newly established National Organisation for Health-care Provision (EOPPY), pharmacists refuse to provide prescription medicine to insurers on credit. With fatal impact especially to chronic-ill patients whether with cancer or not.

A friend who is jobbles since one year had to pay 310 euro to get prescription medicine for a family member. “When will I get the money back from the IKA? Nobody knows…” she told me stressing that this amount covers the food expenses of the 3-persons household for one month. “But shall I do? Let our mom die or in best case run from hospital to hospital if she doesn’t receive her medicine?”

A man said recently on TV that he needed to pay 100 euro for his daughter’s vaccination. “We’ll have them done at a later point,” he said apparently unable to come up for this cost.

Greece’s biggest insurance fund IKA recently decided to refund prescription medicine on isnurers’ bank accounts in an effort to avoid the angry public standing long lines waiting for money.

After insurers run around to collect the necessary documents and signatures they can expect to receive their money in one to two months…

Also microbiologists refuse to perform laboratory tests on insurance fund credit.

Head of  EOPYY Gerasimos Voudouris told Kathimerini on Thursday that he hopes to release up to 80 million euros, to cover the care provided in January, within the next few days.

Other media reported that EOPPY paid out 75 million euro on May 25/2012 and another 125 million euro are due to be released.

EOPPY has outstanding debts to pharmacists, doctors of all expertise, physiotherapists, hospitals, private clinics, laboratories et cetera…

EOPYY, formed after several social insurance funds were merged last year, had its state funding cut by 500 million euros this year but is also being hurt by a drop in social security contributions, which were due to cover 4.5 billion euros of the 5.5 billion of its total funding. So far, EOPYY has only received 1.5 billion euros

Shortages in Drugs

Κίνδυνος θάνατος η έλλειψη φαρμάκων

List of ‘rare’ drugs by Ethnos daily

Apart from the impact for the patients due to state-pharmacists ‘war’, a shortage in important medicines is recorded as well. this has also to do with the fact that pharmaceutical companies demand to be paid in cash by the pharmacists in order to provide them with supplies.

Shortages in Hospitals

A new disaster in the Greek health sector is on the horizon as suppliers of public hospitals will stop providing the National Health System ESY with syringes, gauze, cotton and other material due to outstanding bills, as of June 5, 2012.

Six public hospitals – four in Athens, one in Rhodes, one in Alexandroupolis – will be totally blocked by the suppliers who claim that they have not been paid since 1,5 year and that they even lost money as their payments in form of Greek bonds underwent a ‘haircut’ due to the Greek bond swap (PSI).

Also microbiologists refuse to perform laboratory tests on insurance fund credit.

Head of  EOPYY Gerasimos Voudouris told Kathimerini on Thursday that he hopes to release up to 80 million euros, to cover the care provided in January, within the next few days.

EOPYY, formed after several social insurance funds were merged last year, had its state funding cut by 500 million euros this year but is also being hurt by a drop in social security contributions, which were due to cover 4.5 billion euros of the 5.5 billion of its total funding. So far, EOPYY has only received 1.5 billion euros.

Solidarity in Times of Misery

In times of austerity and misery, when the state and the society are falling apart and politicians focus 24/7 on ‘euro or drachma’ and the public opinion polls ahead of the June elections, humanity and solidarity give hope that the Greek society still keeps alive its moral duty and that the game is not lost.

Daily To Ethnos reports of a case, where a man donated the anti-cancer drugs of his deceased wife to a cancer patient. The 40-year old woman suffering form cancer went public and made a plea saying she deseprately needs the drugs ‘because she wanted to live’. Two out of eight dose of <herceptin> were secured by the pharmacist. Three were were donated by the man who responded to her plea.

The Pharmacists’ Association of Athens intervened to secure an anticancer drug for a 75-year-old woman. “We have been searching for this drug for five months, ” her son told the newspaper adding “Neither at the IKA pharmacy nor at the hospital they could provide the drug. We could take it from neighborhood pharmacy but the procedure changed and we found ourselves in the position to be unable to get it.”

In need of Cancer-Drugs?

 The head of EOPYY, Gerasimos Voudouris, said that cancer patients who cannot find their drugs should go to the IKA (EOPPY) social security fund’s oncological department in at 4 Asopiou Street in Gyzi (Athens). He said they would receive their medicines within 48 hours of submitting a request. [I wouldn’t know what cancer patients outside Athens have to do or if patients live far away from EOPPY pharmacy…]

Athens Pharmacists’ Association has set two hot-lines 210-5220954, 210-5220955 (also: 210 5223914 and 210 5228051), where they give assistance to cancer patients in search for the drugs they need.

 PS Just last week I gave 80 euro for my moms lab tests and 50 euro for some of her medicine = 130 euro just like that… Hopefully I won’t get IKA refund in form of Greek bonds.

 See also a Guardian report on the Drugs shortages in Greece

 

 

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3 comments

  1. A society will always be judged on how it treats its most vulnerable. When a society holds the sick and the elderly to ransom, there is something very wrong. No matter what the “reasons” are.

  2. It is time for the World Health Organisation to be involved and ensure a steady supply of drugs for life threatening illnesses. Also children cannot possibly be deprived of childhood vaccines in a European country! It is a disgrace for our system.
    We rely too much on Big Pharma corporations and we allowed this dependency to run rampant and cripple our societies of goods that should be a sine qua non. We paid high prices and allowed our health care systems to be drained by price fixing by the pharmaceutical companies. This is an example of how vulnerable we have become to such attacks on our well being.

    I don’t know if at this point an application can be made to access Disaster Funds or Emergency Funds in EU or United Nations. If African countries receive foreign aid to access medications and vaccines, why Greece cannot do the same?

    http://www.who.int/immunization_delivery/en/

    WHO (World Health Organization) helps heavily indebted countries to access funds to support immunization and most critical health services.

    Here is the link:

    http://www.who.int/immunization_financing/analyses/debt_relief/en/index.html

    May be it is time to start a discussion about receiving foreign aid to pay for these expensive but life saving drugs!

  3. “Access to essential medicines as part of the right to the highest attainable standard of health (“the right to health”)
    is well-founded in international law. The right to health first emerged as a social right in the World Health Organization (WHO) Constitution (1946)* and in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948)*…”

    http://www.who.int/medicines/areas/human_rights/en/index.html