ATHENS – Greek authorities said they have founded up a criminal gang, including doctors and nurses, who stole cancer drugs from public hospitals and shipped them to other countries for resale and a big profit and pocketed the money, leaving Greek patients without the potentially life-saving medicines.
Twenty-one people aged between 22 and 70 have been arrested and are suspected of forging prescriptions to get hold of the drugs which they then sent to warehouses in Italy, Germany and Switzerland where they were sold at a big mark-up, the news agency Reuters said.
The crime showed “particular contempt for society,” police spokesman Theodoros Chronopoulos said. “They were guided by nothing but profit,” and with no regard for the patients deprived of the drugs, he said.
Most cancer drugs are available in Greece only through state hospitals because of their relatively high cost, and those are subsidized by the state.
The gang is believed to have been active since 2013 during the heart of an economic and austerity crisis as health care budgets and doctor and nurses salaries were being cut or withheld and hospitals didn’t even have enough toilet paper or paper towels.
Police said gang members would forge prescriptions for contrived medical conditions, and were probing whether any real cancer patients got smaller quantities of medication than prescribed.
Once shipped to other countries, the drugs would be sold at more than double the price to a regular clientele, police said, without identifying who they were and if they were being prosecuted in those countries.
The value of the drugs sent abroad was estimated at 25 million euros ($29.94 million,) Chronopoulos said, and the damage to the state was at least 13.7 million euros ($16.41 million) in losses.
The gang had also set up a pharmacy to export the medicine, produce fake receipts and find steady customers, police said.