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Prescription drugs in Greece running perilously low

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
February 28th, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Those reliant on prescription drugs in the nation of Greece are facing a looming crisis. There is a growing shortage of medicines there as many pharmaceutical companies have stopped shipping there. In response, the government created a list of more than 50 pharmaceutical companies suspected of halting or planning to halt supplies because of low prices in the country.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Many pharmaceutical multinationals have halted shipments to Greece because of the ongoing economic crisis there and concerns that the drugs will be exported by middlemen. Medicines are more expensive in other European countries.

There are hundreds of drugs are on backorder and the situation is getting worse, according to the Greek drug regulator.

Treatments for arthritis, hepatitis C and hypertension, cholesterol-lowering agents, antipsychotics, antibiotics, anesthetics and immuno-modulators used to treat bowel disease are all running dangerously short. Adding to the crisis is the news that the Swiss Red Cross has slashed its supply of donor blood to Greece because it had not paid its bills on time.

Chemists in Athens say that desperate customers are going from pharmacy to pharmacy to look for prescription drugs hospitals could no longer dispense.

The government list includes some of the world's leading pharmaceutical companies, such as Pfizer, Roche, Sanofi, GlaxoSmithKline and AstraZeneca. Pfizer, Roche and Sanofi all said a few products had been withheld. GSK and AstraZeneca denied the claims.

"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," Professor Yannis Tountas, the president of the Greek drug regulator, the National Organization for Medicines says.

Thirteen pharmaceutical companies are under investigation that they have reduced supplies and has handed the names of eight to the ministry of health so they can be fined. The names of the companies will not be disclosed. Tountas said that this was the responsibility of the ministry of health, but added that they were "big multinational companies."

"I would say supplies are down by 90 percent," said Dimitris Karageorgiou, secretary general of the group representing pharmacists, the Panhellenic Pharmaceutical Association, said. "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."

"Around 300 drugs are in very short supply and they include innovative drugs, medications for cancer patients and people suffering from clinical depression," Karageorgiou says. "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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