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Greece combats drugs shortages with price hikes!

Greece’s Health Ministry finally found a solution, a medicine, so to say, to combat drugs shortages: Price Hikes. In the mind of the ‘genius’ health ministry leadership this will scare off citizens/patients from getting medicines and thus creating shortages.

Crazy? Cynical? Stay-home-and-die policy?

The Health Ministry will raise the prices of cheap non-prescription medicines and will enforce the prescription for some medicines that can be purchased over the counter until now and are paid solely by the patient.

The idea of the price hikes as the medicine for drugs shortages came first by a government-affiliated journalist at Skai TV on Tuesday morning.

The idea triggered an outrage on social media, but a few hours later Deputy Health Minister Mina Gaga confirmed it.

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“Prices will change, citizens will pay also a part of the hike,” Gaga told Skai TV about the upcoming hikes in cheap medicines.

“Otherwise it’s not worth the effort to produce them” Gaga cynically admitted as a solution to the dramatic drug shortages

When asked if drug price increases are coming, the Deputy Health Minister responded: “Very cheap drugs is something we have to think about. In other words, it must be worthwhile for someone to produce them in order for us to have them. It doesn’t make sense to have drugs at a price below cost.”

She admitted that if the prices of medicines increase, the citizens will also have to put their hands in their pockets, as the entire difference will not be covered by the state.

in addition Gaga reiterated the narrative of Health Minister Thanos Plevris that the drugs shortages “is a global phenomenon”, also due to the early onset of a flu wave.

It should be recalled that in the last couple of days, Minister Plevris has accused in the following sequence:

  1. Parents for storing medicines for their children
  2. Doctors for prescribing much too many medicines
  3. India and China as producer countries
  4. The Global phenomenon

Just the the Minister also the Deputy Minister denied claims that the Ministry was late in taking measures against the problem.

Gaga urged citizens to use generics as well.

Citing sources, health issues websites report that the following drugs will be enforced to electronic prescription

  • general purpose antibiotics (per prescription only since May 2022!)
  • antitussives
  • anti-inflammatory
  • anti-emetics

Gaga stressed that drugs against fever will not be included in the electronic prescription list.

On his part Plevris reiterated on Tuesday that “the problem concerning the shortages of medicines is an international problem due to the low production and the lack of raw materials.

He claimed that Greece is in a better condition than other countries because it has domestic production.

Plevris went even so far to claim that “drug shortages are only in private pharmacies and there are no shortages in hospitals and in the pharmacies of the National Organization for the Provision of Health Services (EOPYY).”

When everybody who has hospital and EOPYY-pharmacies experience knows that it is not true.

Bad pricing policy

The president of the Pharmaceutical Association of Athens, Konstantinos Lourantos, sharply critizied the health Ministry for the shortages blaming the “bad pricing policy.

Speaking to ANT1 TV on Tuesday morning, Lourantos said that they let non-prescriptions medicines go up 200% or more, while prescription-drugs “flew” to foreign markets with the bad pricing policy they imposed.

An excuse that concerns few of the available medicines is the lack of some raw materials in this period, as the real cause of what the citizen lives in the pharmacies lies in the bad pricing policy and the hypocritical agreement between the state and companies, the president of of the Pharmaceutical Association of Athens Konstantinos Lourantos.

“Indeed there is a lack of raw material, e.g. paracetamol, amoxicillin, etc. However, this does not concern all, but only some medicines”, Lourantos said.

“The shortage of the rest of the drugs is mainly due to the bad pricing policy, I say it clearly. With the bad policy, a medicine for 2 euros no longer exists in Greece, when in Germany or England it exists for 12, 13, 14 euros. Clearly it is advantageous for a pharmacy to make them available there instead of the Greek market,” he stressed.

He described the agreement between the state and the pharma-industry as “hypocritical.”

PS The usual mean Greeks suspect in the shortages in the commonly used cheap medicines “an artificial crisis” aiming to their price hikes.

Some are now anticipating for a Pharma-Pass, a subsidy by the neo-liberal government…

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4 comments

  1. I think the problem is more widespread than just Greece and can’t be blamed on other countries taking Greek stock by paying more. I needed to use a pharmacy in the UK in October for a non-prescription medicine. I had to queue at the prescription counter, however, because the other counter was not staffed. The three people in front of me had prescriptions for different drugs but the pharmacist did not have any of them in stock and didn’t know when they would receive any. I could see through to the store room behind the counter and roughly half the shelves were empty. This was in a branch of the largest pharmacy chain in the UK.

    I am sure Greece manufactures some drugs in country but I doubt very much if it can self supply all drugs. The world has increasingly relied on China to make everything it needs for many years and China has been largely closed for business on and off since COVID struck.

    • keeptalkinggreece

      in UK is the price for Brexit
      Here the problem is a gov’t working for the benefit of ‘big suppliers” of any kind see also electricity, gas. mobile/internet etc

    • I also think that Brexit had something to do with that. But outsourcing production of everything to China was the result of neoliberal policies. Always go for the big profit margin at the expense of national or regional production. That helped China to grow and give them leverage over the West. It is in fact the result of Thatcherism and the not so Labour policies of Tony Bliar. Bit China is also vulnerable. The West can order Western companies to move production out of China elsewhere, citing national security concerns. Because might makes right. But that would require quite an effort from Western governments.

      In the case of Greece, what KTG writes below, it are the big private and State companies that have the monopoly, and the politicians in their pockets, and that determine prices. Monopolies, whether private or public, always distort price discovery and lead to price fixing. Even Adam Smith called for the breakup of monopolies and minimum market regulation.

      Both examples show there is a thin line and it is all rather complicated.

      • “In the case of Greece…it are the big private and State companies that have the monopoly, and the politicians in their pockets…”

        But that is true everywhere, not just in Greece. In all western representative democracies the purpose of government is not to represent the people as is usually claimed. The purpose of government is always to control the masses to protect the interests of the rich and powerful, of which they are part. Exactly who “the rich and powerful” are evolves over time but today they are predominantly the people at the top of the financial sector, at the top of the pharmaceutical sector and at the top of the military-industrial complex.