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Cancer patient commits suicide unable to bear the pain due to drugs shortage

A 72-year-old cancer patient in Heraklio, Crete, has ended his life unable to bear the pain and waiting for medicine to do chemotherapy, a drug which is in short supply in Greece.

The issue was brought up a few days ago by local radio station Radio Kriti and a great effort was launched to find this drug for lung cancer as it did not exist in Greece.

He was diagnosed with lung cancer two months ago with the tumor to have increased from 6cm to 9.5cm in this period. During these two months, the man was waiting for the medicine to start his first chemotherapy and he was  suffering from excruciating pain due to the lack of treatment.

On Sunday, March 10, the cancer patient decided to end his life with a noose around his neck.

He left a handwritten note with which he said goodbye to his family asking for their forgiveness and explaining the reasons that led him to commit suicide, effectively falling victim to the Social Security Administration.

Tragic irony that after the problem was highlighted by local media, the medicine came and in fact the first chemotherapy was to take place today, Tuesday, March 12, 2024.

Speaking to Radio Kriti, the 72-year-old’s cousin revealed what was written in the note he left behind. As he mentioned, he said goodbye to children, grandchildren and other relatives, writing among other things that he could not stand the pain and that he could not sleep.

At the same time, he pointed out the great trouble he had suffered as he could not even have an examination with the special PET SCAN machine available at PAGNI public hospital of Heraklion to determine if the cancer had spread.

The next solution was to move to Athens, but he could not afford it.

The man was known to the local community as he was selling books in open air markets.

The drug shortage for Lung cancer

Beginning of March, Radio Kriti brought up the issue of the shortage of the medicine essential for the chemotherapy for patients suffering from lung cancer.

“Hundreds of cancer patients in Heraklion have been in despair for a long time now, and have even reached the point where they can’t even do their chemotherapy,” Radio Kriti reported.

The reason is the lack of medicine for lung cancer, a medicine that no matter how much one searches in Greece, it is impossible to find it.

This drug is distributed in pharmacies and every time the cancer patient is about to be admitted to the hospital for chemotherapy, he must first buy it from the pharmacy and then present it to the hospital to complete his treatment.

The value of the drug is €11.50 and the participation for cancer patients is zero.

According to the member of the Panhellenic Pharmaceutical Association, Yiannis Tsikandilakis, the only way for the medicine to come to Greece is to have a medical report from the hospital which assigns that this medicine is irreplaceable and the necessary actions for its introduction should be taken.

However, this will be a process that will take about a month, according to the pharmacist.

PS The man is not the first and he won’t be the last cancer patient in Greece having trouble to find specific medicines, to have essential diagnostic tests in public hospitals, to have psychological or other support to come through the tough times, pain and despair he suffers.

Ever since the Health Minister Adonis Georgiadis increased patients’ self-participation in generic medicines also for cancer patients since beginning of 2024. there are low income patients who cannot afford them.

Many cancer patients have also complained on social media about the shortage of medicines for specific types of chemotherapy as well as the side effect (such as drop of white blood cells) which the patients have to purchase at the pharmacy.

In many public hospitals, appointments for screening CT or MRI are after 6 months and for a PET SCAN maybe a month, if you’re lucky.

These screenings cost 70 to 140 euros and 1,200 for a Pet Scan if you pay them privately.

In private facilities (hospitals, diagnostic centers etc) you get an appointment after 6 weeks in the average if you have a doctor’s prescription. If you pay private the whole cost, you get an appointment in two days.

If you have money you can survive, if not you’re doomed.

As cynical Minister Georgiadis said generally speaking about the state of public services  “You survive if you adjust yourself or else you die.”

I wouldn’t be surprise if after the tragedy in Heraklio he heralds “we manage to decrease the number of cancer patients in Greece” or ” “cancer patients would die anyway at some point,”

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2 comments

  1. Unbelivable!! Is it really true… ?? How can a cancer patient be expected to bring his medicine to the hospital? And the hospital administrate it….. ?? A hospital should have a stock of medicine to give to its patients. I just cant understand??? If someone comes to a hospital in great pain, does the hospital then send the poor soul out to buy the painkiller needed??? Excuse me but something is really wrong here!
    The poor man, rest in peace!!

  2. As Georgiadis is a privileged member of society (i.e. a well paid minister) he is unlikely to ever be in the position where he has ‘to adjust or die’ and brings shame on Greek society that, historically, was a leading
    light in medicine. It is outrageous that cancer sufferers should have to front the money for life saving medicines. Georgiadis hang your head in shame (if you have any).