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Pharmacists warn of drug shortage, call strike

Pharmacies will close on Wednesday as owners protest the fact that social security funds have yet to settle their mounting unpaid drugs bill, while pharmacists are warning that some medicines are already in short supply.

Pharmacists have decided to close their stores for one day and to stop supplying customers with medicines on credit until the National Organization for Healthcare Provision (EOPYY), the country’s main healthcare provider, settles debts of some 250 million euros for prescriptions issued in March. The pharmacists claim they are also owed about 250 million euros for medicines they sold on credit in 2011 to customers insured with social security funds that were incorporated into EOPYY earlier this year.

In fact, pharmacists claimed on Monday that they have seen an internal EOPYY document that suggests the organization will get a maximum of 784 million euros in funding this year. The pharmacists point out that the bill for medicines they supply to those insured with EOPYY reaches 250 million euros most months and that the organization will soon not be able to pay its drugs bills.

State spending on medicines was cut by 1.75 billion to 3.8 billion euros but the government wants to bring it below 1 billion euros this year, partly through the use of cheaper generic medicines. An electronic prescription system, which has had a troubled launch, is also expected to reduce waste.

Attica Pharmacists Association head Costas Lourantos claimed on Monday that his members alone are owed 74 million euros for drugs sold on credit in January and February.

He also warned that shortages of as many as 163 drugs had been recorded, including medicines for cancer treatment, heart disease and blood pressure. He said that pharmacies and hospitals often find themselves unable to afford to stock expensive drugs.

At the news conference held by Lourantos, a 40-year-old cancer patient recounted her struggle to get hold of her medicine. “I have to take this drug 18 times over the next year but I have to find it on my own,” she said.

ekathimerini.com , Monday May 21, 2012 (22:29)  
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