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Drugs speculators threaten lives of Greek patients – Price scandals like in UK

One by one, 203 drugs in total have disappeared from the Greek pharmaceutical market during the last months. Of them “25 are unique and 3 are irreplaceable” state NET Tv said this morning.  “The lack of three or four caused treatment problems to patients therefore they were imported by IFET, the Greek Institute for Pharmaceutical Research & Technology. IFET normally imports drugs at prices three times more expensive,” I read in medical website

To this information given by the media I can add some more, stories I hear form relatives and friends. I can report of the epilepsy drug Epanutin, for which Pfizer halted the production since beginning of January..

Or of Exelon 6 mg, one of the main drugs for progressed forms of dementia and Alzheimer’s that Novartis distribute to pharmacies with the dropper…

A friend was telling me, she cannot find this drug. That the pharmacist told her, he had to order directly by Novartis and not through his supplier. And yet. The delivery will take some days. The pharmacist ordered 4 packages to cover customers’ needs. The company promised to deliver only one or two.

The Effect? The dementia patient will have to spend a week long without this drug. My friend is scared to death about the side effect the drug shortage will have on her father.

The drugs shortage in Greece has turned from a temporary problem, two year ago, into a permanent one. Blame the austerity imposed by the Troika that enforced sharp decreases in drugs prices. Blame the drugs speculators who now buy cheap medicine in Greece and export it to other EU countries where their are sold at higher prices. Or blame the health ministry for being unable to pay its outstanding debts to suppliers and pharmacies.

Fact is that millions of Greeks are held hostages by speculative profiting of pharma companies and the permanent conflict between public and private sector here. With fatal consequences for the patients.

Greek minister blames speculators

Deputy Health Minister Marios Salmas went on air Friday morning and denounced the practices of drugs speculators. “They sent guys with suitcases to pharmacies and buy certain kinds of  medicine,” Salmas told Vima fm this morning. “The drugs shortage is artificial, the problem is not the prices but some 500 pharmacies and 5 drugs suppliers who do these practices.”

Salmas said more or less that this practice aims to collect all cheap medicine from the pharmacies and export it to countries where prices are much higher. A nice example of this so called parallel trade occurs occasionally in UK.

“The drug shortages reported on are caused by drug companies imposing quotas to stop speculators from “profiteering” from price differentials in same brand drugs in the EU. For years, the exchange rates dictated that the UK was one of the most costly countries in the EU for drugs. Thus, parallel trade saw some same brand drugs coming from EU member states at lower prices. This was sanctioned by the UK government who introduced a parallel import licensing scheme for such products. It can even be said that government action encouraged parallel trade by adjusting reimbursement to chemists to allow for such products.

Now, the exchange rate dictates that the UK is one of the cheapest countries in the EU. Therefore same brand products will often be cheaper than the equivalents in other EU member states. So, it is quite natural to expect speculators to take advantage of this situation, ie, buy at the lowest price and sell at the highest. This is normal business practice and is encouraged by the EU as representing cross border free trade activity.” (how speculators work read here)

Salmas threatened to expel the involved pharmacists from the list of National Health Care system (EOPYY), change the fines law and promised to release concrete data on the drugs in shortage. He claimed that the drugs in shortage do not create any therapeutic problem as they would be replaced by others.

Real life, real drug struggle

It is very obvious that Salmas does not have the slightest idea how the system with prescription medicine works for the real patient:

Patients gets a doctor appointment after 6 weeks.

Patient goes to the doctor who prescribes the needed medicine. Patient goes to pharmacy. Pharmacist removes the code-coupon from the package, give the drug to patient, give to EOPYY the prescription. pleased.

What if the prescribed drug is not available? Its production is halted or the pharma company does not give drugs to supplier or the pharmacy, while there is an alternative?

Patient needs to contact again the doctor to approve the alternative. Patient may wait for another 6 weeks for an appointment. In case the patient can immediately contact the doctor, he/she will have to pay the drug form his own pocket. Because the strict austerity forbids the doctor to issue more than a certain number of prescriptions per month.

So easy as Salmas or any health minister pretend to present them are things in real life not. By far, they aren’t.

Epanutin price scandal

Last week I wrote about the shortage of Epanutin. Some readers of this blog were kind enough to send me information about the distribution of Epanutin, actually a price scandal,  in UK. There, producer Pfizer sold the marketing authorization of Epanutin capsules to another company Flynn Pharma. The new distribution rose the price immense: 24-fold.

In a statement issued by Flynn we read:

“Flynn Pharma Ltd recently acquired the Marketing Authorisations for Epanutin Capsules. …Phenytoin is a drug with a narrow therapeutic index (NTI) and, as such, there may be concerns amongst prescribers and patients regarding any change to the product. …Please be assured that the Flynn Pharma product is identical to Epanutin. There are no differences in formulation and the site of manufacture remains unchanged. The capsules continue to contain the same identicode markings as Epanutin, including the word ‘Epanutin’.”

So what’s the deal now that only the packing changed?  The price for the new “epanutin” went up 24 times! For thorough report see Telegraph.UK  and

Are we going to see also in Greece an old/new anti-epilepsy drug with a much juicy price?

Meanwhile, pharma companies threaten to withdraw their products from the Greek market.

PS I can’t help but ask whether pharma companies go hand in hand with the Troika that wants to get rid of sick and elderly and best of all of sick elderly, in order to cut expenditure in health in pension funds.



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  1. “PS I can’t help but ask whether pharma companies go hand in hand with the Troika that wants to get rid of sick and elderly and best of all of sick elderly, in order to cut expenditure in health in pension funds.”

    The bad Troika is to blame for everything. Greece should be a role-model for any country in europe. Live on credits, complain and most important blame others for your own faults.

    • Live on credits, complain and most important blame others for your own faults.

      This situation has indeed arisen because of TROIKA demands, and has nothing to do with people living on credits or being at fault. Unless of course you considered people suffering from dementia, epilepsy, cerebral palsy, cancer, etc as “at fault” and being responsible for their condition. You most probably also blame the unemployed for being unemployed and the poor for being poor, the hungry for being hungry and the homeless for being homeless.
      Time to look in the mirror and blame the ignoramus for what he is…

      • The Troika came after the credits and the frauds. And after the Greek political class utterly failed to come up with any plan to rectify their criminal behaviour in the past.
        And I for one, do not blame any of the groups you mention. Because the Greek unemployed have to blame the Greek still employed state-workers. The sick and suffering those who fly abroad to get top international care. The poor must blame those 35% or so who still do not feel any real effect on their spending power. The homeless should blame the people who have 52 homes in Greece alone and those who buy up halve of London.
        Yes, there are huge international systemic problems. And yes, they are still not being dealt with other than to bail out the frauds with tax-payers money. But Greece is in a hole of it’s own that is deeper then others because of the total incompetence of it’s ruling class. An incompetence that towers over any mistakes the Troika has made over the last couple of years.

        • That is indeed very true, but, as long as the Troika is allowed to call the shots, followed by those indeed responsible for the state of Greece (and Spain, Portugal, Ireland, etc), then one should indeed point the finger firmly at the Troika and the National Elites everywhere instead of kicking the easy, and false target, as is only too often done. It’s a lot easier to find a defenceless, unrepsresented target than asking AND ANSWERING the awkward questions. And our friends in the TROIKA neither ask nor answer the questions that need asking and answering. They make the rules for the kick “he-who-is-down-game”. Just look at all the so called red-line issues they have put up, and who is at the receiving end of their solution”; the unemployed, the poor, the elderly, the sick, the hungry and the homeless.

          • Speaking from experience with organisations like this I am absolutely sure they have asked the questions and they have answered them. But the answers they got were mostly just blatant lies and manufactured realities. One big farce.
            What one has to hold them firmly accountable for is for not sticking to their red lines from the beginning. Their political leaders just found it way to convenient to just let deadline after deadline slip, because they needed time to survive themselves. But that does not diminish the paramount guilt of the Greek nomenklatura for raping and pillaging this country. And IMO they alone are squarely to blame for every single death in this country as a result of their failures.

          • Ar But that does not diminish the paramount guilt of the Greek nomenklatura for raping and pillaging this country.
            So, that being the case, why does Troika enforced policy hit the unemployed, the poor, the elderly, and not he nomenklatura?
            Surely if they had done their homework, they too would know what every dog in the street knows? So why constantly and sonsistantly hit out at those who are victims rather than offenders?
            More over, if they had indeed done their homework, they would not have used the wrong fiscal multipliers to create and even worse situation out of a bad one…

          • The Troika not doing their homework is something I said from the beginning of this whole farce. And before the Troika each and every Embassy seems to have been failing on every account in informing their countries. So, no disagreement here.
            I also mentioned the unwillingness of the Troika and their bosses to uphold any of the dead-lines. Red lines were shifting so fast they almost looked blue! But WHEN they seemed to be really sticking to one all hell broke loose among the populous in Greece. Of course that was/is totally orchestrated by the nomenklatura. But also all kind of people, also here, with ulterior motives also used that to scream a shout about ‘interference’, ‘undermining democracy’ and so on.
            And now blaming the Troika for the death of Greek patience through medicine speculation: Just read today

            Investigations by a joint team of the Financial Crimes Unit (SDOE) and the National Organization for Medicines (EOF) trying to get to the bottom of a medicine shortage at Greek pharmacies have so far discovered some five medical wholesalers and around 600-700 pharmacies reselling prescription medications at a higher price abroad.
            Investigators looking into allegations that both medicine suppliers and dispensers may be involved in illegal exports and sales of drugs, uncovered evidence suggesting that a number of medical warehouses, or wholesalers, were illegally purchasing medicines from pharmacies at a discount on the market price without value-added tax, compensating them for their loss of profit. The drugs were then being exported to other countries where they carried a higher cost, with the wholesalers pocketing the difference.

            As far as I know these are all Greek businesses and Greek pharmacies acting illegally. And it is this illegal action that seems to be partly to blame for the shortage of certain drugs in the Greek market. And thereby for any death that has or will occur.
            And the Greek officials answer to that? A call for stiffer penalties. Any mention about revoking licenses of prosecution for murder? No, of course not.
            Blaming the Troika was and is the best and biggest smokescreen behind which it is business as usual.

          • Blaming the Troika was and is the best and biggest smokescreen behind which it is business as usual

            It is “business as usual” because of the Troika! The Troika is the face of what is really to blame for all of this. You focus on the Greek exponents of the malaise, but seemingly fail to realise that this is not just a Greek problem. In fact, the Greek problem which remains in place (and about which you rightfully complain) only does so because the overall problem is not being tackled. The overall problem is the system represented and upheld by the Troika. I’m sure you’re not unaware of the activities of the nomenklatura (or elite, whichever way you want it) in Spain. Portugal too has it’s minister of listing submarines. I think he’s now minister for foreign affairs. Major property scandals in Slovakia involve high ranking affocials, one of them at some stage appointed to the Troika installed asset strippers in Greece. I know you understand Dutch. Go and have a look at http://www.Tabaknee!.nl, rather enlightening on how the tabacco industry works (both in Holland as well as world wide) and who they use to sell their poison.
            In Ireland, home of dodgy bankers, the risk manager of UniCredit(Italian bank) reported, as he was required to do by law, the bank to the regulator for failing to hold adequate liquidity. Result? The very same regulator threatened him with police, courts, etc. etc. and told him to shut up. The guy had the moral integrity to resign over this, but has paid a very heavy price for his stance.
            In Belgium the second largest Trade Union ACW is in hot water over serious corruption and dodgy dealings involving another dodgy bank, Belfius. Even good old Schauble had to stand down as party leader at some stage for taking bribes. Only to be replaced by Merkel… “Business as Usual” is the modus operancus of the system represented by and kept in place by the Troika. That is why they are indeed to blame for what is happening. Of course they are not to blame for those individual pharmacies engaging in selfish greed. That is the personal responsibility of the individual pharmacists. And may the end up suffering tenfold the sufferings their actions are causing.
            the Troika are most definitely to blame for upholding the “business as usual” mentality that allows those pharmacies to do what they allegedly did. The Troika are most definitely to blame for implementing policies that do indeed allow the “business as usual” mentality, while those without a voice or represenation are being made pay the price. In Greece AND throughout Europe.

          • You focus on the Greek exponents of the malaise, but seemingly fail to realise that this is not just a Greek problem (…)
            In fact, the Greek problem which remains in place (and about which you rightfully complain) only does so because the overall problem is not being tackled.

            Yes, what one has to blame the powers behind the Troika for is that they, due to their own problems and inability to solve them, allowed and facilitated the Greek nomenklatura in their business as usual.
            Thát’s the only thing I blame outsiders for. The rest is all domestic (in the broadest sense) in it’s making.
            Fact is that if the whole world outside Greece would be a paradise tomorrow morning, Greece’s problems would remain because of its own internal failures to cope with anything in other ways then the way they did the last couple of decades.
            That Tabaknee-site and all the other examples, are indeed big problems. And most of them also of local making. And I am getting really tired of people who are using things like these to show me how short sighted I am. As I have been aware of almost all the facts and cases around lobbying in Holland for at least 30 years now and speaking up to it.
            Yeah right, let’s start blaming the smoke related deaths in Holland not on those who lobbied there while they were in fact chosen to protect the people. No, instead let’s blame… puessss… say Greece. Why? Well, Greece has huge problems with funds that keep disappearing or medicines that are illegally sold abroad. Those failures are of course only one of the many signs that the world is a rotten place and that keeps the Dutch authorities from tackling this tobacco lobbying scandal and safe peoples lives… Yes? Isn’t this your way of arguing your case? But, again, when we would get all the worlds ailments out of the way still nothing would change in Holland the way it is now, because it has nothing to do with Greece.
            Internal Greek problems are things like halve of the former PPC-board that are investigated were and are, as it became clear to me now, appointed to TAIPED. Which should be one of the spearheads for real change in Greece. Instead is was lead and will be lead by cronies who earned their positions through working at those DEKOs that are a huge part of Greece’s problems.
            Or the first real sell-off of government owned property will probably go to a company run by a Greek-Cypriot with very strong ties in Greece and it’s business community and who started his career at Goldman Sachs. And if I am still able enough to read between lines in Greek newspapers it is awfully clear that this company never had the highest bid for the property… So, there must be the usual ‘important’ factors that ‘forced’ the government to sell it below it’s price to a ‘friend’. allegedly… Or better! It was the TROIKA!
            Just two things that ‘outsiders’ have nothing to do with. Nothing at all and are signs of huge internal problems that are just taken for granted it seems.
            Getting the whole world involved with their own problems as an excuse for not forcing the Greek powers to change their way is just welcomed greatly by those who want to keep things as they are, because THAT is what deprives people who are paying the real price now of a voice and representation. All those who want to change the world over the backs of the 1 million Greek unemployed, their children, elderly and all the others who live in utter misery. And just to satisfy their revolutionary credentials? Bravo!

          • keeptalkinggreece

            I agree: one thing is the general crisis, another thing is the deep-rooted Greek malaise. Together they form a dangerous component that make me (many, us) believe there is no hope for this country.

          • @ Antonis; you are once again missing the ball and playing the man instead. The real, deep rooted problem, of which Greece is indeed very much part and exponent all in one, is the system that allows all the individual problems in Greece, Holland, Portugal, Ireland and everywhere else to florish in their own paculiar ways. Indeed, the Greeks, just like all the others have their very own deep rooted problems, which need to tackled from within. Just like the Irish, Dutch etc. have. However, the world is not a collection of single independent units any longer. The world is increasingly becoming one unit, a process called globalizion. Let me give you a widely known example of how your contention doesn’t work.
            One of the very specific Greek problems caused by the system is the problem of immigration, which is compounded by Dublin 2. That is the root of the problem. The Greek exponent of the problem is how Greece doesn’t deal with it, which must indeed be sorted in Greece. BUT WITHIN THE FRAMEWORK OF THE SYSTEM WHICH IS INTERNATIONAL. The pletora of international rules and regulation make this Greek problem an international problem, like it or not. And that is why a Greek solution to a Greek problem will never work. It isn’t a Greek problem, it is experienced in Greece, and Greece suffers the consequences, including internal consequneces like GD.
            The very same reasoning goes for the financial problems, property speculation, bribery, corruption, client driven politics, etc. etc. Greece, just like Ireland, Portugal etc. is indeed responsible for the Greek expression of this malaise, but is not, and cannot be solely responsible for the solution. this does not mean that your friens the nomenklatura are right in doing what they do, it does mean they are protected. By the very system causing the problem in the first place.
            The real problem is the framework, of which Greece is only a part. This process is not driven by individual countries, this process is driven by a system of which these individual countries are expressions. The local malaises in each individual country are not only fed by, they are supported and empowered by that external system. As you mention them, please note that most of the real powerful positions in the area of EU finance are now occupied by employees of the dreaded Goldman Sachs. No such thing as an ex-employee with these guys. Once married to them, you are married to them for life, like it or not. Their modus operandus is very similar as that modus operandus of the Church of Scientology. The latter however is considered criminal (and rightfully so) in many parts of the world. The former is considered “an example”…
            Just to make sure, I’m am not talking about the gombeen men functioning as ministers of finance in each individual country, I am talking about those who make the policies enforced by their henchmen in the individual countries. And if the henchmen don’t do the job as ordered, for whatever reason, then the enforcers are sent in. The enforcers are indeed the much dispised, and deservedly so, Troika.
            By insisting that Greece is its own isolated drama rather than part of the overall malaise, you ensure one thing and one thing only. Your nomenklatura will remain where it is, you will keep leaving the country for 6 months a year, and those unfortunate enough not to be able to do so will sink further and further into poverty.

            All those who want to change the world over the backs of the 1 million Greek unemployed, their children, elderly and all the others who live in utter misery.

            That sentence alone proves that you do indeed not only suffer badly from the short sighteness you claim not to have, but also from narrow minded parochial mentality that results in Greece (and elsewhere) being what you so hate about it…
            I for one have constantly and consistantly referred to ALL the “unemployed, their children, elderly and all the others who live in utter misery” as the victims of the system. I do not this down to 1 million Greeks only.

            PS I notice that I used the term “gombeen man”. That is a very Irish expression specifically used to indicate an Irish person who collected and handed over rent to foreign, non resident, landlords. A pretty apt description for almost every national government in Europe these days…

          • keeptalkinggreece

            guys, I will impose a 200-words limit to comments :p

  2. Troika is the best thing that has ever happened to Greece. Sure. Some will suffer for some years but eventually a new era will dawn in Greece and corruption will be a thing of the past. The best idea is to have Troika appoint foreign overseers (Govenors) in every ministry and keep them there for at least one generation until the current generation of corrupt Greeks move on, and o my then will a new clean generation of Greeks be born without their hands in the cookie jar. Foreign stewardship is the way not the same old entitlement mentity Greeks.