Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Even With Good Intentions...

Guess what? When the government is the only entity that can buy pharmaceuticals and said government is an irretrievable deadbeat, nobody gets pharmaceuticals.

For patients and pharmacists in financially stricken Greece, even finding aspirin has turned into a headache.

Mina Mavrou, who runs a pharmacy in a middle-class Athens suburb, spends hours each day pleading with drugmakers, wholesalers and colleagues to hunt down medicines for clients. Life-saving drugs such as Sanofi (SAN)’s blood-thinner Clexane and GlaxoSmithKline Plc (GSK)’s asthma inhaler Flixotide often appear as lines of crimson data on pharmacists’ computer screens, meaning the products aren’t in stock or that pharmacists can’t order as many units as they need.

“When we see red, we want to cry,” Mavrou said. “The situation is worsening day by day.”

The 12,000 pharmacies that dot almost every street corner in Greek cities are the damaged capillaries of a complex system for getting treatment to patients. The Panhellenic Association of Pharmacists reports shortages of almost half the country’s 500 most-used medicines. Even when drugs are available, pharmacists often must foot the bill up front, or patients simply do without.

Actually, it is not complex at all - people demand compensation for the things that they produce. If you can't pay the compensation, you don't get the things.
Strained government finances only make matters worse. Wholesalers and pharmacists say the system suffers from a lack of liquidity, as public insurers delay payments to pharmacies, which in turn can’t pay suppliers on time.

“Wholesalers simply do not have the money anymore to play bank to the pharmacies,” Heinz Kobelt, secretary general of the European Association of Euro-Pharmaceutical Companies, said in a telephone interview.

Public insurers owe pharmacists some 330 million euros ($422.1 million) for drugs bought since April, Dimitris Karageorgiou, vice-chairman of the pharmacists’ association, said in an interview last month. Payment can take three months to up to a year, pharmacists said. Some are turning to patients to pay up front.
Throw in price controls for good measure and you get shortages.
One major cause is the Greek government, which sets prices for medicines. As part of an effort to cut its own costs, Greece has mandated lower drug prices in the past year. That has fed a secondary market, drug manufacturers contend, as wholesalers sell their shipments outside the country at higher prices than they can get within Greece.
There are many lessons to unpack here, but the best one might be to view all this through the lens of compassion. Leftists are constantly telling us that government run healthcare is compassionate. What is compassionate about a system that breaks down catastrophically with no incentives to get people what they need? Take out the central-planning of the Greek healthcare system you might have a chance to get treatments to patients, albeit at higher costs. What is more compassionate, meeting patients' needs at higher cost or having them go without needed medicines altogether?

Note also, as a sidebar, that if the Greek system currently prevailed in Illinois, Illini would be similarly deprived of medicines as the state of Illinois cannot pay its bills on time.

So let's put a little addendum onto Gerry Ford's quote, "A government big enough to give you everything you need, is a government big enough to take away everything that you have....". I would add, "whether it intends to or not." Governments can deprive you by being tyrannical or by melting down and ceasing to function - the end results is the same.


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