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Bucharest
December 7, 2021
EDITORIAL

Medicine Crisis

The people with serious illnesses of whom pensioners first and foremost have come to the point of wishing electoral campaign were more frequent. Why? Because only then the decision-makers and those in the opposition are likely to make concessions, or promise the moon as far as medicines are concerned. Whenever else, government officials of all hues resort to aberrant strategies, yet under the best disguise possible, with the health minister’s most recent such instance quite telling in this respect. Which minister resolved to cut down the financial funds allotted to very serious diseases. The reason? Take a guess, the crisis, yet not the economic crisis underway but one a lot more serious, the responsibility crisis. Therefore, the medicine funding for chronic diseases was trimmed since such diseases have grown a great deal more numerous that before. This means that children, teenagers, youth, grownups, and even the old, those still alive, had better make sure not to get sick with so many chronic diseases.

If this irresponsible decision is no longer a reason for major social protests, as it should, is also because such decisions are always taken after elections. Yes, it’s been too long a time since the medicine crisis has grown increasingly menacing. The most intense social protests in the Romania of the past 17-18 years have been the result of cancer patients taking to the streets, diabetics, those suffering from cardio-vascular, renal, pulmonary  diseases, or AIDS, who are condemned to a premature death due to their vital medicines no longer being provided. A move also due to drastic reductions in financing of subscriptions free of charge or partially compensated, or the lucrative deals between medicine producers and distributors, the National Health Insurance House and general practitioners, between the professional and non-professional owners of many of the pharmacies operating.

The public has often been stunned to learn about some special commissions being in place, under various guises, which, faced with the increased demand for medicine by hospitals, decide who is the priority, who is put on the “waiting list” and who is “invited” to procure their medicines at their own expense. It is such terrible situations that “helped” medicine importers and distributors round off their profits by increasing medicine sales prices on and on.

Today, the medicine market in Romania is dominated by imports, priced higher than elsewhere across the EU, when related to the average income per capita. An, as any import aimed at making a personal profit exclusively, it is due to generate many shortcomings, among which that the inexpensive medicines prescribed are increasingly less found in pharmacies on grounds of not being profitable enough. Nobody seems to care that opting for steep price medicines is at odds with the medicine trade, and that, since medicine are not a merchandise like any other, given they are instrumental to the right to life as the paramount human right. Then, why is it that discrimination related to medicine access is allowed?

The RON devaluation is the routine answer to such questions. Yet, the RON value is moving up and down, as other home currencies also do. Why is it then that such oscillations are not reflected in the price of medicines, which only goes up more and more, even when the RON value does so too. The heated debates, including the legislative ones, have been to no avail. The only positive aspect of such discussions refers to unveiling some underground realities Public opinion in Romania has therefore learned that medicine imports in Romania are often linked not to market demand or the therapeutic value of the medicines imported, as it should, but to the discounts foreign exporters offer to Romanian importers. High discounts or commissions aimed exactly at pushing Romanian medicine manufacturers into bankruptcy, namely those that have not yet been sold ten for a dime, as it happened with many other industrial units in Romania.

As with education, the chaotic decentralization of the medical system brings but losses. Some hospitals, even if partially subordinated to local administrations, run the risk of different quality health car across the country. With the accompanying discriminations at their most damaging when pertaining to the health and the education field. Proof to it stands hospital financing, now rated from 1 to 5, with many of them experiencing a permanent crisis of medicines or medical staff or equipment. It is exactly this multiple crises that stand at the root of inadequate, if not erroneous, medication, with patients that die as a result of improper medication, or surgery which despite its potential for being successful it’s not on account of lack of anticoagulant medication. The gap is also growing between those patients who can afford to procure the medicine they need and those unable to do so.

On one hand, with over 2,500 annual deaths of infants under one year old, Romania has the highest infant mortality rate in the EU, and such tragic statistics concern all age groups. On the other, many hospitals often run out of medicines, with insulin, anticoagulants, and even routine sedative lacking, exactly because many of the medicines are imported and distributed as mentioned above. This also explains the cyclic feature of medicine crises, which in turn show a system crisis triggered first and foremost by domestic medicines being undermined, while imports are favoured also because some of the politicians benefit from related sponsorships. All these contradictions lead to anarchy, and anarchy in the medical-pharmaceutical system equals death.

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