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Greece Scrambles Fast to Deal With Acute Shortage of Critical Drugs

ATHENS – While a temporary ban on pharmacists selling critical drugs to foreign markets is in place, Greek Health Minister Thanos Plevris met with union representatives and wholesalers to find a solution to shortages already created.

The pharmacists blamed global issues for the shortages but some have been selling off stocks to other countries because the price caps set by the government don’t give them enough of a profit margin.

The ministry said it would allow higher prices for some inexpensive drugs, with Greece having the lowest prices in the European Union and those with insurance paying only 15 percent of the cost in most cases.

They also said the issue was not as severe as in other countries since Greece has its own production of pharmaceuticals as well, reported the state-run Athens-Macedonia News Agency ANA-MPA.

Wholesalers will also undergo checks to make they aren’t stockpiling inventories to again sell to other countries when the suspension is lifted and insure there’s enough for the Greek market.

Those are especially for fever-reducting drugs and for children’s medication. Fines are restricted to shutdown by the government for export violations as well as license suspensions, the report said.

Other measures include the increase of orders for active ingredients by the Pharmaceutical Research & Technology (IFET), which is responsible for the import, production and distribuiton of pharmaceutical products.

There will also be briefings on drug shortages by the National Organization of Medicines (EOF), responsible for the supervision of medication and to inform the public of available generic drugs as alternatives for consumers.

Greek pharmaceutical companies said they will step their manufacturing of generic medicines and multinationals will increase the import to Greece of those drugs in shortages to insure there’s enough.

The Panhellenic Union of the Pharmaceuticals Industry (PEF), which had officials at the meeting, said that despite the problem Greece was better off than some other countries because of domestic production.

“As of September to November 2022, Greek drug companies produced over 25 million packaged drugs every month. Had this not been done, we would now be facing massive shortages even in drugs of chronic ailments, such as cholesterol medications, blood pressure medications, and drugs for congestive heart failure. At the same time, the Greek drug industry continues to supply domestic hospitals with first-line drugs, without break,” it said.

PEF said that 42 Greek pharmaceutical factories worked round the clock at full capacity to cover Greek patients’ needs, “despite the unfavorable environment created by the continuing price reductions in old medications, the huge clawback, and excessive taxation that reaches 70 percent, the rise in production costs, and high inflation.” These costs are absorbed by the industry and not passed down to patients, it said.

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