Health-care spending cuts imposed under the "only the banks get paid" policies dictated by the infamous IMF, European Central Bank and European Union "Troika" are threatening to wipe out the supplies of medicines nationally in Portugal and Spain, as they have already done in Greece.
In Portugal, the National Association of Pharmacists (ANF) organized a 6,000-person protest in the capital of Portugal on Oct. 20, charging last week that government delays in paying co-pays for medicines dispensed by the public health service threatens "collective euthanasia" of the nation's pharmacies. Suppliers have already suspended shipments to 1,131 of the nation's 2,900 pharmacies, with supplies to another 600 at immediate risk. If some payment adjustments aren't made in the next few weeks, by early December the majority of Portugal's pharmacies will be unable to pay suppliers or make new purchases.
Larger pharmacies which can afford to do so are stocking up now, "in case the whole [supply] chain collapses, as happened in Greece.
Yet, the Troika insisted that the government cut another EU3.33 billion in public expenditures on medications in 2013. Pharmaceutical labs, suppliers, and pharmacists responded that any further price cuts will drive production costs below break-even, and supplies to the domestic market will disappear.
Likewise in Spain, government austerity policies have slashed expenditures on pharmaceuticals by more than 25% from expenditures twelve months ago. Several of Spain's regions are as much as 6-8 months behind in payments, which is creating "forced shortages" in pharmacies. 2,000 pharmacists and clients supporting them took to the streets in the region of Valencia on Oct. 24, under the slogan, "Pharmacies Are the End of the Line," and the next day, 80% of the pharmacies in the region of Catalunya closed for one day, in protest against the backlog of payments due them.
Portuguese and Spaniards know they are heading "down Greece's way." Since the orders in July 2011 that unemployed Greeks must lose benefits after one year, half of Greece's 1.2 million unemployed now have no health insurance, and must pay 100% out of their empty pockets for health care.
"In Greece right now, to be unemployed means death," a doctor told the New York Times. Hospitals and pharmacies demand cash for drugs, and doctors who dispense hospital medicines to the uninsured must cover the cost from their own pocket. Some doctors have set up an underground network to collect "left-over" medicines from the families of cancer patients who have died, and "spare" medicines donated by pharmacies and some pharmaceutical companies, which are dispensed by doctors who treat uninsured for free after hours. Yet, another EU$1.5 billion in cuts in health spending was imposed upon Greece by the Troika this week.