Report: Some 10 percent of Iranians face hardship to pay medical costs

Azerbaijan, Baku, Apr.20/ Trend F.Karimov/

Some 10 percent of Iranian people are unable to pay medical treatment costs for hard-to-cure diseases and such costs have left them destitute, the Mehr News Agency reported.

In recent years, the number of families who have gone below the poverty line has increased due to the fact that they are unable to make for huge medical costs, he noted.

Due to western-led sanctions, only a handful of international banks are willing to transfer currencies on behalf of Iran to purchase medicine, which is leading to a shortage of imported drugs, Rasoul Khazari, a member of the Iranian parliament's health committee, said in November.

On January 15, IRNA quoted Iranian deputy health minister, Mostafa Qanei, as saying that Iran annually exports some $580 million worth of pharmaceuticals, ranking 53rd in the world in this regard.

About 90 percent of needed medicine can be produced domestically, he said, adding that nearly 30 biological drugs are produced in the country.

Costs of medical equipment have also soared, rising an average of 245 percent due to the decline in the value of Iran's national currency, Hossein-Ali Shahriari, the health committee's head, said Nov. 10, 2012.

On November 30, 2012, the Health Ministry of Iran has called the Central Bank to earmark $2 billion for importing medicine to cope with the domestic shortage as a result of international sanctions.

An official from the Health Ministry told the Fars News Agency that the ministry has just started importing $130 million worth of urgently needed medicine.

Mohammad Abdzadeh added that the Central Bank has agreed to allocate $2 billion to the health ministry to import all the needed medicine.

A major portion of the imported medicine will be supplied to patients suffering from cancer and other hard-to-cure diseases, he noted.

Although trade in medicine is exempt from international sanctions imposed by the UN Security Council and the unilateral sanctions announced by the U.S. and EU, Iranian importers say Western banks have been declining to handle it.

The U.S. and EU have placed restrictions on dealings with Iran's Central Bank - the only official channel for Iranians to transfer money abroad - and Swift, the body that handles global banking transactions, has cut Iran's banks out of its system.

The government said in July that it had $150b in foreign currency reserves to help cushion the blow of the sanctions.

Officials have also sought to step up domestic production of medicine. However it has been limited by subsidy reforms which have increased the cost of fuel and electricity, as well as by shortages of increasingly-expensive raw materials.

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