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Common Drug Shortages Upset Cancer Patients

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Common Drug Shortages Upset Cancer Patients

Pills.

Photo: Páll Stefánsson.

Women who have been diagnosed with breast cancer and are in preventative drug treatment have been forced to be without drugs for days or to loan each other drugs in order to be able to continue treatment due to a shortage of anti-hormonal drugs in the country, RÚV reports. Lára Guðrún Jóhönnudóttir raised awareness of the issue on her Facebook page.

Lára Guðrún was diagnosed last year with breast cancer, at the age of 33. Women with her diagnosis usually take the generic drug Exemestan, which won’t be available in pharmacies until October 1 and hasn’t been in stock since May. They can also take the original drug Aromasin which is currently available, but for two days in September, neither drug was in stock in pharmacies. “I’m furious over the way this is being handled. We are actually loaning each other drugs through groups on Facebook. This is the reality,” Lára Guðrún writes on her Facebook page.

Buying Aromasin is more expensive for patients since Icelandic Health Insurance only participate in the cost up to the price of the generic drug, RÚV reports. Icelandic Health Insurance will refund the cost of the original drug when the generic drug isn’t available, but patients first have to pay for the drugs out of their own pocket, up to 20.000 Isk (182,43$, 156,24 €), something not everyone can afford.

Chief physician of the Icelandic Medicines Agency first found out about the lack of drugs yesterday, according to RÚV. According to him, a flaw in the system means that no institute has oversight over drug supply in the country. The Icelandic Medicines Agency has oversight over drug imports but not the supply. According to Kolbeinn, the problem can both be international and local. Sometimes, an international lack of a chemical can lead to drugs not being available but in other cases, the problem is caused by the small size of Iceland’s market. If two drugs are sold here and one becomes unavailable, more people will buy the other drug, leading to a shortage.

Minister of Health Svandís Svavarsdóttir has requested that the matter will be discussed in a meeting with the Icelandic Medicines Agency. In a parliamentary session, she expressed her surprise over how common this shortage of important and commonly used drugs is.

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