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Sanctions are destroying Iran’s health sector

UNITED STATES (OBSERVATORY NEWS) — At the age of forty, Iranian diabetic Pervez Sadiq appears as if he is seventy years old, with deep wrinkles surrounding his blue eyes, while his prominent bones in his face are witnessing a narrow hand in light of a severe health crisis.

After waiting for six hours, he feels comfortable despite the signs of fatigue on him as he leaves a pharmacy in the capital, Tehran, carrying insulin, which has become among the increasingly difficult basics for the consequences of the US sanctions.

“I have been suffering from diabetes for about 10 years. Previously (…) you used to go to any pharmacy and give you (insulin), but now you have to go to a thousand places,” said the former worker who lives in Karaj, an hour west of the capital. For that, after spending a week moving from one clinic to another.

The Iranians are suffering from a lack of medicines, even before the emergence of the new Corona virus in the city of Qom (center) and its spread, which resulted in a number of deaths and caused panic amid a scarcity of protective masks.

The shortage of medical equipment began after the United States withdrew from the historic nuclear deal and reimposed sanctions on Iran in 2018.

Washington excluded humanitarian goods, especially medicines and medical equipment, from its punitive measures.

However, international purchases of this type of equipment were hampered by banks’ fear of any commercial dealings with Iran, fearing that they would also be subject to sanctions.

This increased the scarcity of medicines and caused a significant increase in prices, in light of the fall in the value of the riyal.

“I was bringing insulin about three years ago for 17,000 tomans ($ 10 or one euro), and now it is 50,500 tomans, and its price is increasing more and more,” Sadiqi said.

“The insurance covers it. So I had to go to a thousand places since last Saturday to get approval to buy it. They finally agreed, but it took a long time and you have to go to many places.”

Insulin honesty “borrows” from other patients only during periods of scarcity so that it can survive.

He has difficulties finding pharmacies that provide needles with syringes.

“They recently started to force us to push for the needle,” he said.

“Either they die … or they pay” –

Health Ministry spokesman Kyanosh Jahanpur told France Presse that “Iran is able today to produce more than 97 percent of the medicines it needs.”

“We only import about three percent of the drugs we use, which is simply related to new and advanced drugs – they are medicines used in limited quantities and their production inside the country will not be feasible,” he added.

But he acknowledged that the country had been struggling for a year to import “medicines for rare and special diseases.”

In the heart of Tehran, the government “13 Aban” pharmacy looks like a beehive as it attracts crowds of patients daily who patiently queue for hours while storing and supporting medicines for rare diseases.

13 Aban and a number of other pharmacies in Tehran deal with the state insurance company.

Mohammed Aminian, 73, who needs insulin for his diabetic wife, holds the sanctions responsible for not being able to provide the medicine.

“The government is trying to improve matters, even though it creates some problems on its part … We would prefer it if they negotiated” with the United States, he said.

But Sadiqi does not hesitate to blame the government directly.

“It is definitely the government. They do not have the ability to manage things. Some do not have insurance, they have to buy” medicines at high prices, he said.

“They must either die (…) or pay,” he added.

“Insulin is among the main drugs affected (…) and our stocks drop from it along with other drugs over time,” said Mohammad Rezaei, deputy director of pharmacies linked to the Tehran University of Medical Sciences.

In addition to diabetics, the most affected were cancer patients and those who suffered from thalassemia, a genetic blood disease that is prevalent in the country.

A woman with bullous epidermolysis, a group of genetic disorders that cause blisters on the skin and mucous membranes, recently died from a lack of special dressings.

Smuggling

Shahrazad Shahbani, who owns a private pharmacy in the capital, points to another serious problem – medicines for people with mental disorders.

“A patient with a prescription for two hundred pills, for example, cannot get a hundred or even 20 (…) it has become more frequent,” she said.

Other medicines that are not sufficiently available are Depakene, a drug manufactured by the French company Sanofi and used by epilepsy patients.

Among them is the former fifty-year-old soldier Muhammad who participated in the Iran-Iraq war. Muhammad also suffers from PTSD.

He uses homemade medication for PTSD, which he says “sometimes causes stomach problems and heartburn. It does not calm down even enough. If you feel stressed, (local medicine) may work much less frequently than others.”

Shahbani endorsed this view, saying: “Unfortunately, quality is a real problem. It is something that cannot be talked about officially.”

“There is a difference in quality, even from one company to another, as the combinations are different.”

Shahbani reported that people with Parkinson sometimes smuggle foreign drugs through Turkey, in order to get better quality.

It seems that a new financial channel set up by Switzerland to facilitate the trade of humanitarian materials with Iran has not made much difference on the ground.

Meanwhile, some pharmacies continue to sell at exorbitant black market prices for Iranians who are already suffering from recession and the depreciation of the local currency.

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