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Increasing Shortage of Medicine in Greece

Greek pharmacy
Credit: Pat Guiney / CC BY 2.0 / Flickr

There is an increasing shortage of medicine in Greece. That is the announcement made by the Pharmaceutical Association of Attica (FSA) on Wednesday, October 25th. Evidently, more than 400 essential medicines are now not available. Consequently, pharmacists and patients are racing to secure some medicines, the FSA said.

The shortages concern irreplaceable drugs, according to the FSA’s statement. These include painkillers, antibiotics, anti-diabetics, anti-epileptics, anticoagulants, antidepressants, and others.

President of the Panhellenic Pharmaceutical Association Apostolos Valtas describes the situation as ”a daily and unmanageable problem for us as well as for the patients, who are forced to search from pharmacy to pharmacy for the medicine prescribed by the doctor or even to interrupt the treatment until they find their medicine.”

What is more, the president of the FSA Konstantinos Lourantos said “a few days ago a citizen came to my pharmacy (in a large area of ​​Athens) and was looking for a medicine for a relative of his in Kastoria“.

Parallel exports to blame

Greek pharmacy
Credit: bobbsled / CC BY-SA 2.0 / Flickr

According to pharmacists, more than 200 drugs for almost the entire range of ailments are in a permanent state of shortage. If one adds this number to the list of those available in limited quantities at pharmacies, then the list of shortages grows.

The Association called on the Ministry of Health and the National Organization for Medicines (EOF), who are responsible for the smooth supply of medicines to patients, to “finally take all necessary measures.”

The main reason for increasing shortage of medicine, according to pharmacists, is the ever-increasing ”parallel” exports. Valtas points out  that Greece is, for example, the Eu country with the lowest prices for medicines. This makes exports to countries such as France, Germany or the United Kingdom very profitable for pharmacies.

Yet it is also a problem of the profit margin pharmacies make for the medicines they sell. In Greece, it is at 4.67%, an amount multiplied many times over for the same medicines  on the market abroad.

For common eye drops, the profit reaches 189%.  Asthma inhalers stands at 106.7%. Common migraine medicines are around 80% and for a muscle relaxant that amount jumps to 277%. So in 2020, for example, parallel exports of medicines were worth 427 million euros.

Another reason for the shortages lies in the production of the medication. In other words, there is a shortage of raw materials for the reduced quantities of medicines the Pharmaceutical Research and Technology Company (IFET) import. Unfortunately, the materials are as well unique.

The Greek state’s response to the shortage

The state’s response to this increasing shortage is to prohibit parallel exports of drugs that are in short supply. Thus, earlier in September, the EOF updated the list of medicines for they have temporarily prohibited parallel exports. The list includes 79 medicines. Yet, it still does not coincide with the list of shortages that pharmacists have.

“Meetings upon meetings have been held, but without result,” notes Valtas.

According to the Panhellenic Pharmaceutical Association, specific actions are now necessary to restore the adequacy of the market is specific actions. That is the news made in a statement by the Pharmaceutical Association of Attica (FSA) on Wednesday, October 25th. These, according to Valtas, include the strict surveillance of the quantities that companies have on the market and the control of pharmaceutical warehouses and the real time monitoring of exports. In addition, it will establish a stricter time frame regarding the prohibition of parallel exports.

He added: “There should also be a system to alert doctors so they don’t prescribe drugs that are proven to be in short supply.”

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