Stopgap solution found for cancer drugs

The provision of anti-cancer drugs by hospitals and pharmacies will return to normal by Wednesday, caretaker Health Minister Christos Kittas said on Monday following meetings with health sector professionals and emergency talks with Prime Minister Panayiotis Pikrammenos over dangerous shortages. Kittas said the ministry had reached an agreement with the pharmaceutical firms that import the expensive anti-cancer drugs as a stopgap solution. Ministry sources said pharmacies, hospitals and the National Organization for Healthcare Provision (EOPYY), the country’s main healthcare provider, will be immediately supplied with the medicines. Serious shortages of anti-cancer drugs have appeared in recent weeks due to public spending cuts and the reluctance of pharmacists to stock the expensive medicines over fears they will not be paid by debt-wracked social security funds. Last month, EOPYY promised to settle its 250-million-euro debt to pharmacists before elections on June 17.

The drug shortages -- and the debacle with the anti-cancer medicines -- was the focus of intense political debate over the weekend with leftist SYRIZA blaming the previous administration and former Health Minister Andreas Loverdos accusing SYRIZA of “investing in the problems of cancer sufferers to garner votes.” In a related development, hospital suppliers are on Tuesday to stop deliveries to six major institutions until some 150 million euros in debts are settled.

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