Greece urges cross-border cooperation to prevent medicine shortages

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Athens, Jan 11 (IANS) Greece, as well as many other countries across Europe and the world, has faced medicine shortages in recent months amid the Covid-19 pandemic and has had to deal with a surge in flu cases and other respiratory infections.

A global issue necessitates cross-border coordination, Greek Minister of Health Thanos Plevris said at a press conference and wrote in a letter addressed to European Commissioner for Health and Food Safety Stella Kyriakides, reports Xinhua news agency.

“We need to immediately speed up production and register centrally all medicines that are in short supply in the European Union (EU),” he told journalists.

“We need better cooperation among member states for the exchange of medicines, as well as centralized orders” of medicines and raw materials.

Greece faces a chronic shortage of certain drugs because it exports them to other countries as their price in the country is low, the minister said.

However, the current shortage of medicines, such as antibiotics and analgesics, is linked to the global shortage of raw materials, the reduced production due to the pandemic, the energy crisis and supply chain issues, he said.

“We are lucky to have strong domestic production and we can supply the market with generic drugs of the same substances as those in short supply.

“The fact that there are shortages in countries where medicines are sold at high prices shows that the problem today is not a problem of prices or exports, but reduced production.

“Actually, it is an issue of delays in supply and not a permanent shortage. Our hospitals have generic drugs and all patients receive treatment,” Plevris said.

Greek pharmacist Souli Stathopoulou told Xinhua that currently there are no raw materials available for cough syrups.

“The prices of raw materials went up, but the medicine prices didn’t increase accordingly. When the price of paracetamol from India increased by 300 percent recently and there is no corresponding increase in the price of the medicines produced, the consequence is that the companies do not produce the quantities necessary to cover the market,” she explained.

Stathopoulou added that another reason is the ongoing Russia-Ukraine war, which makes the transportation of goods difficult.

To address the current challenges, the Greek authorities have announced measures on the national level, including a ban on the exports of 260 medicines, enhanced audits at pharmacy stores and warehouses to see whether they have reserves, as well as an increase of the production of generic drugs in the country.

Dozens of medicine-producing factories are in full operation to meet the needs of Greek patients, the Panhellenic Association of Pharmaceutical Industries said in a recent press release.

The Hellenic Association of Pharmaceutical Companies has called on consumers to avoid stockpiling.

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