Cancer patients line up for drugs

Hundreds of cancer sufferers and carers lined up outside pharmacies across the country Tuesday after an agreement between caretaker Health Minister Christos Kittas and pharmaceutical companies led to fresh supplies being channeled to the National Organization for Healthcare Provision (EOPYY), the country?s main healthcare provider.

According to a statement released by EOPYY, the process of sending out orders for the anti-cancer medicines was completed Tuesday and pharmacies were being stocked with the drugs. It was expected that pharmacies would be fully stocked in the next two days, EOPYY said. Cancer patients can telephone the hotline 184 from noon Wednesday for information about where to procure their drugs while most pharmacies in Attica will not close at lunchtime, as is usual on Wednesdays, but will stay open until 7 p.m.

The head of EOPYY, Gerasimos Voudouris, told Kathimerini that he hoped people would not besiege pharmacies unless they have an immediate need for the drugs. ?It is crucial that people remain calm,? he said. ?Those who need their drugs on Thursday or Friday can go tomorrow [Wednesday] but those who do not need them until Monday can leave it for another day so we avert a rush,? he said.

Meanwhile, unionists representing the country?s pharmacists are refusing to provide medicines on credit until EOPYY settles debts of some 250 million euros for prescriptions issued in March.

Following talks with Finance Minister Giorgos Zannias, Kittas said that 70 million euros which has been secured for the repayment of EOPYY?s debts for March would only be released to pharmacists if they resume giving out medicines on credit.

As the deadlock in the health sector continues -- and after hospital suppliers suspended deliveries to six major institutions Tuesday over 150 million euros in unpaid debts -- a second prosecutor was asked to bolster a probe into the shortage of crucial medicines. Athens Court of First Instance prosecutor Antonis Eleftherianos is to help prosecutor Popi Papandreou probe possible criminal charges against pharmacists and pharmaceutical firms that have failed to provide medicines to patients with serious illnesses.