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Under pressure from the public to act, Romania has approved a 800,000 euro fund to buy medicines for cancer patients.
Romania's centre-left government last week approved an emergency ordinance that will allow Unifarm, the state company in charge of acquiring and distributing drugs to medical institutions, to buy medicines for cancer patients.
Unifarm is to get 800,000 euro from state treasury to purchase drugs on the external market that are currently missing from hospitals, as foreign companies seek advance payment.
The decision follows strong public pressure, as Romania has faced a severe cancer-drug shortage in the last couple of years. More than 20 key medicines are very difficult or impossible to obtain.
Offering money to Unifarm will not automatically solve the problem, however. “The main problem is not the money, as the missing drugs are cheap. The problem is the health-care system, which is still driven by bureaucracy and diverging regulations,” Cezar Irimia, from an organization defending patients’ rights, says.
In the meantime, cancer patients are struggling to purchase the drugs on their own though they are entitled to free medication by law.
Some rely on an informal network, including a website called “Missing Drugs”, where patients fill in forms listing the drugs they need. People who frequently travel to Western Europe and volunteers then try to find the medicines and send them to them.
Official data say there are around 68,000 cancer patients in Romania but the real number is believed to be double that figure, as many people do not register.
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