Medicine crisis in Iran due to sanctions

Dalga Khatinoglu, Trend Agency's Iran Service Department Chief

Head of Iran's Charity Foundation for Special Diseases, Fatemeh Hashemi, says providing patients suffering from special diseases with their needed medicine is facing problems due to sanctions.

Iranian media reports indicate that medicine prices are rising and some types of medicine are rare due to the sanctions.

"We are feeling the shortage mostly for cancer and MS drugs. Of course, thalassemia and dialysis patients are also facing hardships. These all are rooted in problems which have been caused by sanctions against the banking sector and difficulties transferring foreign currency," the Tabnak website quoted Hashemi as saying on Tuesday.

Miss. Hashemi went on to say that, "Sanctions have targeted people. Many indications prove the claim. The most painful is the time when we see hardships for six million patients who are suffering from special diseases and their families who are grappling with the problems. In such a case, we will find out the grave impact of the economic and non-economic sanctions on their lives."

On Monday, ISNA quoted Mohammad-Hossein Hariri, an Iranian pharmacist, as saying that if related officials do not pay attention to the production and importation of drugs, the country will face a crisis in the near future.

Mr Hariri touched on the rise in prices of drugs during the past three months, saying that domestically produced drugs are currently supplied to the market with a 15-20 per cent average price rise.

Prices of foreign medicines have also notably increased, he said, adding that some food supplements which are being imported are supplied to the market with a 20-80 per cent price hike.

On October 11, the Khabar Online Website reported that production fell and the importation of drugs has entered an "alarming phase", threatening special disease patients, in particular. The country is facing a shortage of over 15 drugs for special disease patients, according to the report. The website quoted the head of the Iranian Thalassemia Society as saying that the drug deficit has led to the death of some patients.

In this line, on October 9 the Tehran-e Emrooz daily published a comprehensive report about the shortage of medicine for "over 20,000" thalassemia patients and long queues in front of drug stores.

Thalasemia patients have been consuming medicine less than the required amount for a couple of months, the newspaper wrote.

The EU and U.S. have imposed tough sanctions against Iran's banking and oil sectors as well as the financial system. Iran relies on the oil sector as the main source of income. However it has been frequently said that the food and drug sectors are exempt from the sanctions. However, domestic and foreign sources have reported vary hard problems for importers of foods and drugs due to the banking sanctions.

On April 3, Reuters published a report in which the issue of financial payments and banking settlements has been referred to as a predicament for Iranian merchants. The report named some goods, mainly medicinal and healthcare products export of which to Iran had faced problems, although the U.S. treasury had permitted exporting such products.

According to Reuters, U.S. firms from major drug makers like Merck & Co. to family outfits like Harrington's American Pulp & Paper Corp. are finding it hard to get paid even for medicines and other humanitarian exports explicitly allowed by the U.S. Treasury, according to officials, sanction lawyers and the companies.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon announced on October 5 that the Iranian people were under great pressures resulting from the sanctions.

Banking limitations have made it hard to export drugs to Iran, he said, adding that many pharmaceutical companies are disinclined to export medicines to Iran due to the money transfer problems.

In addition to the money transfer problems, the rise in prices of foreign currencies was another factor which contributed to the medicine price hike, especially foreign ones in Iran.

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