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Shock for cancer patients: “Life expectancy” needed for prescription medication

Outrage and shock for cancer patients in Greece in need of expensive drugs. Doctors are obliged to mention the patient’s “life expectancy” on the prescription, when it comes to expensive medication. The case of a patient has caused outrage and shocked not only cancer patients but also the medical community.

It was a patient’s lawyer who made the case public in the media.

When the patient went to Greece’s National Agency for Health Care (EOPYY) to receive the special drug, he was told that the doctor needed to have mentioned also his life expectancy on the electronic prescription.

The drug had a cost 0f 3,989 euro. The man from Thessaloniki was suffering from prostate cancer.

The drug, radium Ra 223 dichloride, is a drug designed to treat advanced prostate cancer that has not responded to testosterone-lowering drugs.

The Medical Association of Athens denounced the case as “unacceptable” saying that it was against reason and morals “the moment the patient receives the prescription to see that he has only limited time left.”

In a circular is issued on 13. April 2016, the president of EOPYY had specified the criteria according to which committees for drugs for expensive drugs had to approve compensation of this specific drug for cancer. Among others, the medical documents needed for the approval of the drug was the patients’ life expectancy.

The circular was issued specifically for prostate cancer patients and was mentioning among others that the life expectancy should be greater than one year.

EOPPY president told ANT1 on Wednesday morning that the circular aims to secure the patients’ safety as such patients are serious ill but also the evaluation of the drug.

Oncologists told media, that the indication of  “life expectancy” is indeed needed on the prescription for specific cancer treatments, while “life expectancy” is also contained in the instructions of certain drugs. The reason is that these drugs are highly toxic and therefore they might not have the desired therapeutic effect.

EOPPY president said on Wednesday morning that they will proceed to “modifications to avoid misunderstanding.”


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  1. This is nothing unusual for patients of the NHS (Great Britain). Standard procedure since ages. Want a new hip? Be unter 65 and so forth.