Cezar Irimia, who runs the Romanian Federation of Cancer Patients Associations, says Romania's lack of coherent strategy created a major cytostatic crisis.
"The health-care system is severely underfunded, and those in power are not taking responsibility," he said.
Cancer patients have the right to receive free medication, according to Romanian law. In reality, though, many of them must find other ways to purchase
the drugs they need, many times through friends or relatives who are travelling abroad. There is even a website called "Missing Drugs" where Romanian patients can find volunteers to send them the drugs they need. Anyone can
register and give a hand. Most of the volunteers are Romanians who frequently travel to Western Europe or are already based there. However, this is a
solution only for patients who can afford to pay for the drugs, because the state cannot cover the expenses when they are purchased this way. Very poor patients have no choice
but to hope the shortage will end as soon as possible.
At the Institute of Oncology in Bucharest, for example, cancer patients who should be treated with 5-FU, Bleomycin, or Cisplatin must find a way to purchase the drugs on
their own because the hospital doesn't have them. The shortage is even worse at the Regional Institute of Oncology in Iasi, a city 400 km away from Bucharest.
The hospital reports constant difficulties purchasing seven cancer drugs.
When asked about the drug shortage last week, Romania's Prime Minister Victor Ponta admitted the country has to deal with a lot of bureaucracy and bad
legislation. "I saw a case of a person who needed [cancer] drugs and went to Fundeni [a hospital in Bucharest] where he didn't receive the cancer
medicines, although it was revealed that the doctor just didn't want to give him the drugs. I immediately asked: Can we do something about it? No, because
the law does not allow such thing," he explained.
His statement comes two days after the government announced its budget for 2013, which didn't include any particular fund to solve the shortage crisis.
After 48 hours of subsequent incessant public pressure, Ponta said he found a solution: The country's Treasury will lend 800,000 Euros to Unifarm, the
state company in charge of purchasing and distributing the drugs to hospitals around the country. This measure was necessary to help the state
distributor purchase from the external market the drugs that are currently missing in Romania.
"In March, the ministry will start rethinking the national health programs and will elaborate health policies and strategies that could meet the current
needs," explained Eugen Nicolăescu, Romania's health minister. "We are taking into consideration the possibility of introducing a centralized acquisition
process for some products, in order to manage the situation not only from an economic level," he added.