Pharmacy queues show price Greeks are paying for credit breakdown

 

Athens

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.

News
Alan Bennett criticised the lack of fairness in British society encapsulated by the private school system
peopleBut he does like Stewart Lee
Sport
David Moyes and Louis van Gaal
football
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black and Ed Stoppard as her manager Brian Epstein
tvCilla Episode 2 review: Grit under the glamour in part two of biopic series starring Sheridan Smith
Life and Style
Alan Turing, who was convicted of gross indecency in 1952, was granted a royal pardon last year
life
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Life and Style
life
Arts and Entertainment
Tennis player Andy Murray's mum Judy has been paired with Anton du Beke for Strictly Come Dancing. 'I'm absolutely delighted,' she said.
tvJudy Murray 'struggling' to let Anton Du Beke take control on Strictly
Life and Style
Vote with your wallet: the app can help shoppers feel more informed about items on sale
lifeNew app reveals political leanings of food companies
Arts and Entertainment
The cover of Dark Side of the Moon
musicCan 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition? See for yourself
Sport
New Zealand fly-half Aaron Cruden pictured in The Zookeeper's Son on a late-night drinking session
rugby
Arts and Entertainment
Worldwide ticket sales for The Lion King musical surpassed $6.2bn ($3.8bn) this summer
tvMusical is biggest grossing show or film in history
Voices
A new app has been launched that enables people to have a cuddle from a stranger
voicesMaybe the new app will make it more normal to reach out to strangers
Arts and Entertainment
Salmond told a Scottish television chat show in 2001that he would also sit in front of a mirror and say things like,
tvCelebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
News
i100
Life and Style
food + drink
News
Rob Merrick's Lobby Journalists were playing Ed Balls' Labour Party MPs. The match is an annual event which takes place ahead of the opening of the party conference
newsRob Merrick insistes 'Ed will be hurting much more than me'
News
A cabin crew member photographed the devastation after one flight
news
Life and Style
Carol O'Brien, whose son Rob suffered many years of depression
healthOne mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Chemistry Teacher

£120 - £162 per day: Randstad Education Hull: We are looking for a Qualified C...

Year 6 Teacher

£100 - £120 per day: Randstad Education Hull: Randstad Education are currently...

Year 1 Teacher

£90 - £120 per day: Randstad Education Hull: Year 1 Primary Supply Teachers ne...

Early Years Teacher

£90 - £120 per day: Randstad Education Hull: Early Years supply teachers neede...

Day In a Page

Secret politics of the weekly shop

The politics of the weekly shop

New app reveals political leanings of food companies
Beam me up, Scottie!

Beam me up, Scottie!

Celebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
Beware Wet Paint: The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition

Beware Wet Paint

The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition
Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Can 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition?
Sanctuary for the suicidal

Sanctuary for the suicidal

One mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits