June 12, 2012

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Crisis In Health Care Hurts Access To Vital Medicines

Lack of funding to Greece's health system and social insurance funds due to the economic crisis has deprived many severely ill patients of access to vital medication needed to preserve their life or prevent their condition deteriorating. Cash-strapped social insurance funds are unable to provide these patients with services or the money to buy expensive medication, condemning them to suffer and hastening the course of their illness. The stark choices faced by patients were outlined by associations of patients suffering from various chronic ailments during a press conference on "The barbarity of the economic crisis and the devaluation of human life" held on Monday.

According to Mihalis Tsakantonis, an unemployed cancer patient that also suffers from diabetes and a weak heart, things are now so bad that he "just wants to die like a human being, where I sit". Unable to get a pension because he is short 99 days of work, Tsakantonis cannot afford to buy the drugs he needs or even to breathe properly, since the electricity company cut off his power and he can no longer operate the assisted-breathing device that he needs.

Multiple sclerosis patient Panagiotis Papastolakos had to stop taking the medication that slows the progression of the disease because he did not have enough money but also lacked the stamina to put up with the hardship patients now have to endure in order to secure the drugs they need.

"Our basic medication costs up to 1,000 euro a month, apart from the other drugs that we got for free. Now you have to begin a marathon in order to get one box of drugs and, as soon as you find them, you're filled with anxiety about whether you can get the next box," said the general secretary of the Greek Society for MS patients Dimitra Kontogianni. "The worst thing is that you don't die but deteriorate on a daily basis and new health problems constantly arise," she added.

The head of the Kidney Patients Association of Northern Greece Christos Karagiozis noted that patients were having to lend each other vital drugs and stressed that the problem would take months to resolve, during which time there would unavoidably be casualties.He reported a number of problems, from a lack of filters for kidney dialysis machines to pharmacists' refusal to supply drugs on credit, even charging that a hospital was discriminating between uninsured kidney transplant patients, who were given generic medication with inferior specifications, leaving them open to the risk of their transplant being rejected, and insured patients that were given the original.

Problems with lack of basic supplies, such as bags to collect blood donations, were reported by the association of children with thalassaemia, young people with type I diabetes, while cancer patients highlighted their inability to afford prescription medication whose cost ranges from 200 euro to 4,000 euro a month. (AMNA)
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