Why this story matters:
It took seven months of messages and protests from patients for Romanian authorities to admit they need the European Union's help to acquire life-saving medicine known as immunoglobulin.
This shouldn't come as a surprise: Romanian authorities have been slow to recognize when they can no longer manage a situation. A similar delay happened when the state found itself in a vaccine crisis last year.
Also, when the 2015 Colectiv nightclub fire killed 64 people and injured 147, it took a week for the Romanian authorities to recognize they needed international help to treat such a large number of patients.
Hundreds of patients diagnosed with primary immunodeficiency are now at risk of dying because of the immunoglobulin shortage in hospitals.
Romania's foot-dragging puts lives in danger. The Ministry of Health needs to sharpen its ability to assess resources and reach out for help within hours or days -- not weeks or months -- when it finds itself overwhelmed with a crisis.
Details from the story:
- Immunoglobulin is derived from human blood plasma and contains antibodies that protect the body from disease.
- The World Health Organization included immunoglobulin in a list of essential treatments that no country should be without.
- The crisis in Romania began when the government failed to convince distributors and manufacturers to bring this type of medicine to the Romanian market.
- In August 2017, the last two companies that imported immunoglobulins to Romania filed a withdrawal notice due to low prices imposed by the state.
- In November 2017, dozens of parents and children protested in front of the Ministry of Health.
- On March 6, Health Minister Sorina Pintea triggered the European Civil Protection Mechanism to get immunoglobulin from other nations.
- On March 12, Pintea said 10,000 doses of immunoglobulin will arrive from Austria in less than 2 weeks. She said the United States and Italy have agreed to send 100 kg of immunoglobulin.
- According to the Ministry of Health, Romania needs 5,000 immunoglobulin vials each month.
- Each dose costs about 100 euros but is 100 percent reimbursed in Romania.