Greeks Panic As Drug Firms Slash Medicine Supplies By 90% On Bad Debts

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Greece is facing a serious shortage of medicines amid claims that pharmaceutical multinationals have halted shipments to the country because of the economic crisis and, as The Guardian reports, concerns that the drugs will be exported by middlemen because prices are higher in other European countries. Rubbing further salt into the Greek (un-medicated) wound, the Red Cross slashed its supply of donor blood to Greece because it had not paid its bills on time. Pharmacies in Greece describe chaotic scenes as clients desperately search from shop to shop for much-needed drugs. Greece's Pharmaceutical Association said "around 300 drugs are in very short supply," adding that "It's a disgrace. The companies are ensuring that they come in dribs and drabs to avoid prosecution. Everyone is really frightened." The fear for the multinationals remains that wholesalers can legally sell to other nations at higher prices and a "combination of Greece's low medicine prices and unpaid debt by the state." Lines form early and 'get very aggressive' one pharmacy exclaimed, "We have reached a tragic point."

Via The Guardian,

Greece is facing a serious shortage of medicines amid claims that pharmaceutical multinationals have halted shipments to the country because of the economic crisis and concerns that the drugs will be exported by middlemen because prices are higher in other European countries.

 

Hundreds of drugs are in short supply and the situation is getting worse, according to the Greek drug regulator. The government has drawn up a list of more than 50 pharmaceutical companies it accuses of halting or planning to halt supplies because of low prices in the country.

 

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Separately, it was announced on Tuesday that the Swiss Red Cross was slashing its supply of donor blood to Greece because it had not paid its bills on time.

 

Chemists in Athens describe chaotic scenes with desperate customers going from pharmacy to pharmacy to look for prescription drugs that hospitals could no longer dispense.

 

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"Companies are ceasing these supplies because Greece is not profitable for them and they are worried that their products will be exported by traders to other richer countries through parallel trade as Greece has the lowest medicine prices in Europe," said Professor Yannis Tountas, the president of the Greek drug regulator, the National Organisation for Medicines.

 

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The body representing pharmacists, the Panhellenic Pharmaceutical Association, confirmed the shortages. "I would say supplies are down by 90%," said Dimitris Karageorgiou, its secretary general. "The companies are ensuring that they come in dribs and drabs to avoid prosecution. Everyone is really frightened. Customers tell me they are afraid [about] losing access to medication altogether." He said many also worried insurance coverage would dry up.

 

"Around 300 drugs are in very short supply and they include innovative drugs, medications for cancer patients and people suffering from clinical depression," said Karageorgiou. "It's a disgrace. The government is panic-stricken and the multinationals only think about themselves and the issue of parallel trade because wholesalers can legally sell them to other European nations at a higher price."

 

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"the reasons being a combination of Greece's low medicine prices and unpaid debt by the state", he said.

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"Lines will form in the early morning or late at night when you're on duty," said Karageorgiou, who is based in Thessaloniki. "And when the drugs aren't available, which is often the case, people get very aggressive. I'm on duty tonight and know there will be screaming and shouting but in the circumstances I also understand. We have reached a tragic point."

 

Greece's social insurance funds and hospitals owe pharmaceutical companies about €1.9bn (£1.6bn), a debt going back to 2011, with companies expecting payments of €500m this month.

 

Some companies admitted they were not supplying some medicines.

 

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The pharmaceutical industry says many shortages are because of products being exported through parallel trade, and has urged the government to address set drug prices. Under EU trade rules, the free movement of goods is allowed. So for example, while a pharmaceutical company may sell a medicine to a wholesaler or pharmacist in Greece, the wholesaler or pharmacist can sell these medicines on to wholesalers in other countries. Parallel traders do this to make money on the price differences between countries.

 

"The government needs to correct these wrong prices to avoid a surge of exportation. Greece's drug prices are 20% or more lower than the lowest prices in Europe," said Konstantinos, who is also the general manager of Novartis in Greece.

 

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