Pharmacy queues show price Greeks are paying for credit breakdown



There were long queues outside a state-funded pharmacy in Athens yesterday as people lined up to get life-saving drugs for seriously ill relatives.

The shortages in chemotherapy medicine and other expensive drugs arose when pharmaceutical companies cut credit to the country's largest state-backed heath insurance fund, EOPYY, which provides subsidised medicine to ordinary Greeks.

The problem is yet another reminder of the challenges facing Greece, which goes to the polls for a second time this month after May's elections failed to deliver a government.

Coalition talks between competing parties broke down when the far left demanded a renegotiation of the country's austerity drive – something that is opposed by its European partners, notably Germany. The ratings agency Standard & Poor's said this week that there was a one in three chance that Greece could quit the euro in the months after the elections on 17 June.

Yesterday, the privately run SKAI TV showed scenes of hysteria as hundreds of Greeks queued outside one of the five pharmacies owned by EOPYY. A patient could be heard screaming inside the pharmacy, and a man said he had been waiting hours to get his mother's cancer medication.

The average cost of a cancer patient's prescription is €2,000 (£1,600) but members of the EOPYY healthcare fund got the medicines at a heavy discount. By lunchtime, the morning queues had vanished. "I got my relative's drug a day early," said one woman. "But off course, with this situation, I'm worried we might not be this lucky next time."

The morning frenzy, according to an employee, was due to misinformation. "Thousands came thinking we would provide all sort of medicine when we were ordered to hand out only the most expensive type."

Workers at the EOPYY pharmacy at the Georgios Gennimatas oncological hospital told The Independent they gave out around 1,000 cancer drugs to about 300 patients. However, they still lacked some chemotherapy medicines, as one pharmaceutical company had yet to deliver. "One sufferer started screaming and insulting us because we lacked a medicine," said an employee who refused to give her name. "People are very anxious to get their medication and express their feelings in different ways. You can't blame them."

Kalliopi Metaxa, a retired doctor and volunteer at the KEFI Cancer Society, said its members were desperate. "It's a chaotic situation – a temporary solution was provided to help the seriously ill. But what happens when the government runs out of money again?"

She added that in her years as a state doctor, she had never seen such a health crisis although Greece had a history of being late with its payments to health providers.

It's not just the pharmaceutical companies that are owed money. The EOPYY fund is also in debt to pharmacists. The government had pledged to repay the last outstanding instalment of this year's €270m debt to pharmacists after they cut credit to EOPYY, forcing members to pay for their own medicines, which are normally subsidised by the fund.

But the Prime Minister, Panayotis Pikrammenos, said this week that his caretaker government could not begin repay £6.5bn of outstanding payments to pharmacies until Greece receives its next loan instalment from its international creditors.

Analysts predict a tight race between the pro-bailout conservative New Democracy and the radical left-wing Syriza party, which has vowed to tear up the bailout agreement, putting the country's membership of the euro in question. To complicate matters for the pollsters, while public opinion is increasingly opposed to harsh cuts, most Greeks want to remain in the euro.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
There will be a chance to bid for a rare example of the SAS Diary, collated by a former member of the regiment in the aftermath of World War II but only published – in a limited run of just 5,000 – in 2011
charity appealTime is running out to secure your favourite lot as our auction closes at 2pm today
Arts and Entertainment
Bianca Miller and Katie Bulmer-Cooke are scrutinised by Lord Sugar's aide Nick Hewer on The Apprentice final
tvBut Bianca Miller has taken on board his comments over pricing
Life and Style
Approaching sale shopping in a smart way means that you’ll get the most out of your money
life + styleSales shopping tips and tricks from the experts
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Elton John and David Furnish exchange marriage vows
peopleSinger posts pictures of nuptials throughout the day
in picturesWounded and mangy husky puppy rescued from dump
newsAstonishing moment a kangaroo takes down a drone
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator

£16000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Sales Administrator is requir...

Recruitment Genius: EWI / IWI Installer

£23000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This leading provider of design...

Ashdown Group: IT Support Analyst - Chessington

£25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Service Desk Analyst - Chessington, Surrey...

Recruitment Genius: Technical Support Analyst / Helpdesk Support Analyst

£16000 - £19000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Our client is the UK's leading ...

Day In a Page

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'