Patients are complaining about the poor quality of reimbursed medicaments that the state should provide them free of charge. Under these circumstances, they are somehow obliged to pay extra money from their pocket to exchange the reimbursed medicaments with more qualitative ones.
This investigative video story was prepared by a group of students from the Journalism Faculties in Tirana and Elbasani, in the frame of a training they were attending on the topic “Investigative Journalism”. The training was organized and delivered in April 2015 by the Association of Journalists for Justice – AJJ, with the support of the USAID Albanian Justice Sector Strengthening Project (JuST).
The challenge of hundreds of patients that get medical treatment in our public health centers seems to have reached its highest peak lately with the issues of lack of medicaments, their questionable quality and the related corruptive cases. It is very easy to identify near Tirana central hospitals persons who act as intermediaries to help you find the medicines you need. Only by wandering around the public hospitals in Tirana, one can very easily find the medicaments the doctor has recommended, and soon realize that many people earn their living by illegally selling those medicaments that even pharmacies do not have. In our investigation, we have observed there is a lack of essential drugs needed in emergency medicine, such as, Lasix, Adrenalin, Atropine, Papaverine, Analgin, Voltaren, Valium, Ultracorten, etc.
The situation gets even worse, as we learn that hospital medicaments are stolen to be then sold in pharmacies. The same pharmacists have confirmed such a fact. Besides, hundreds of citizens visiting health centers and pharmacists are facing the problem of lack of medicines. In QSUT (Tirana University Hospital Center) for example, people waiting in long lines to see a doctor also face the problem of lack of medicines needed for their treatment. Meanwhile, many are the pharmacists to affirm, same as the patients, that the quality of reimbursed medicaments is indeed poor. Pharmacists openly admit that these medicines are of poor quality.
It is believed that the main pharmacies in Tirana are to be held accountable for distributing reimbursed medicaments that are registered in the patients’ health records. A team from investigim.al monitored the situation in at last 10 pharmacies. It was observed that a high percentage of patients are frequently obliged to pay even for the reimbursed medicaments. Two are the main reasons leading to this phenomenon, namely, the total lack of medicaments in public health centers, and even when such medicaments are provided, it is their poor quality. During 2014, the KLSH (State Supreme Audit Commission) has reported about expired medicaments kept in QSUT storehouses. The official report listed about 107 types of expired medicaments and raised some suspicion about the risk of side effects on the health of patients. Citizens, particularly the elderly, being the main customers of pharmacies, tell us about the existence of double standards, one standard for the poor and another for those who can afford the higher costs.
Florian from Fieri affirms he has seen a doctor some time ago and was prescribed a medicine called Droptimol, which is used to treat eye hypertension. We followed him in his search for the medicine in at last 10 pharmacies, where he failed to find it. Pharmacists suggested him to buy alternative medicaments. During this search for the medicine, we learned that the absence of medicaments is even more common for the most used ones. Many patients speak about indispensable medicaments that treat specific diseases, but are completely excluded from the list of reimbursed medicaments. Patients with multiple diagnoses feel hopeless about getting better, because they are very often unable to find even those medicines that are included in the reimbursement list. For drugs like, Atenolol, Enalapril, Berlipril that are used to treat some heart and diabetes diseases, the elderly are obliged to either pay or not buy them at all.
Roland Xhafaj, Head of the Association of Pharmaceutical Representatives, raises the concern of the very few chances the innovative corporations have to getting involved in the Albanian pharmaceutical market. “It is a continuing concern the fact that chances of innovative corporations to be included with their medicaments in the reimbursed medicines list are indeed very few, even though their involvement would offer more choices to the patients and medical personnel”, Xhafaj said. Regardless of the obvious abuses with the quality of reimbursed medicaments, the lack of medicaments and the increasing number of citizens reporting about abusive cases in this field, official efforts to improving the situation are indeed minimal.
The members of the students’ group are: Andrea Danglli, Arnold Osmani, Bekim Skënderi, Besar Bajraktaraj, Denis Spaho, Elda Goxhaj, Erlinda Dushku, Enkel Xhangoli, Elsa Dautaj, Eva Ferja, Enida Verça, Elona Tomja, Olsjan Topalli, Panajota Merko, Mikela Pupa, Parashevi Taga, Klaus Bedulla, Katerina Lleshaj, Mimoza Ibra, Sadjona Shkurta.
Translated by: Erlinda Dushku
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