Drug shortages: Market normalization slow

The country remains in the grip of pharmaceutical shortages. Antibiotics, antitussives and inhalants remain classified as elliptic, creating domino problems for the pharmaceutical chain and of course for the citizens who need them.

As mentioned today during the press conference of the Panhellenic Association of Pharmacists (PSF), we are at the beginning of a normalization in the relevant field, regarding the shortages recorded in recent weeks due to the outbreak of viruses, but the return to normality of immediate access to all medicines will take time.

In particular, as explained by the general secretary of the PSF, Mr. Theodoros Skylakakis, there is a relative normalization in the preparations that have paracetamol as an active substance, but not in inhalants and antibiotics. As for inhalants, he attributed it to the reduced quantities delivered by multinational pharmaceutical companies to pharmacies, stressing however that “fortunately there are generics and citizens have an alternative and they turn to it”. Regarding antibiotics, he clarified that the shortage is gradually being restored in several, but not in those that have amoxicillin as an active substance.

The role of pharmacies in the pharmaceutical chain and in supplying the market was the main topic of the PSF interview, as both Mr. Skylakakis and the president Mrs. Irini Markakis emphasized, their sector, a key link in the chain, has been targeted and slandered and presented as an illegal branch that exports the drugs and leaves the Greeks unprotected.

“Legal parallel exports are carried out exclusively and only after covering the internal market and in any case only concern preparations whose export is permitted by the EOF” said Mrs. Markakis, while in support of the disconnection of the deficiencies with parallel exports she stated that the legal exports in 2021 were 400 million euros, reduced by 66.6% compared to exports 15 years ago. The phenomenon of shortages is multifactorial, pointed out Mr. Skylakakis, and cited the reasons why the problem has arisen: “It is due to the lack of raw materials, to the reduced quantities of preparations imported by multinational companies, a strategy that cannot but be associated with the huge clawback they pay based on their sales, but also to illegal pockets that exist in the field of drugstores and pharmacies.

We are the first to support that there are “sweeping” operations in pharmacies, that is, they are constantly buying pieces of the drugs prohibited for export and then they are exported through pharmacies. We ask that the pharmaceutical warehouses be checked, as they are a key link between companies and pharmacies, and that the offenders be punished,” said Mr. Skylakakis.

In fact, he placed particular emphasis on the expansion of the sector in 2012, with favorable terms for the business but not for the sector, as “with a share capital of 1,000 euros, a pharmacy can be opened without having to be registered and controlled by the institution, the PSF. Pharmaceutical warehouses have intervened which harm the image of our industry”. It is no coincidence, as he pointed out, that EOF’s checks on pharmaceutical warehouses detect violations almost exclusively in pharmaceutical warehouses of this category. Since 2014, 59 pharmacies that are not members of the PSF have been established.

“Controls by the competent bodies are mandatory throughout the field. We declare once again that we are open to assisting the authorities and providing whatever information is needed to the EOF, such as real-time transactions between pharmacies. However, we want to see the results of the audits on the pharmaceutical companies. Two months ago, we denounced nine pharmaceutical companies for delivering reduced quantities and we are expecting an answer from the EOF on whether they maintain quarterly stocks as they should and whether they have reduced the quantities they import into our country,” said Mr. Skylakakis.

According to the representatives of the PSF, the immediate solution to address the shortages is the electronic prescription of all medicines. However, they consider the full, regular control of the pharmaceutical market to be a basic measure in order to identify and punish offenders wherever they are.

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