“Scarcity apparently across spectrum of prevalent diseases, particularly life-threatening ones”

The United States-led economic sanctions on Iran, imposed over the latter’s alleged weapons’ related uranium enrichment programme, have resulted in a severe shortage of essential and life-saving medicines in the country, writes Dara Mohammadi, a senior assistant editor of Lancet in the medical journal’s latest on-line issue.

Shortage of medicines

The shortage of medicines is apparently across the spectrum of prevalent diseases, particularly for life-threatening ones such as cancer and cardiac disorders. And on occasions when they are available, the prices are prohibitive and beyond the affordability of ordinary Iranians.

Huge suffering

According to Reza Malekzadeh, former Health Minister of Iran during 1991-93 and currently a professor of medicine at the Tehran University of Medical Sciences who has been quoted in the report, while data to quantify the real impact of the sanctions were not available, the huge suffering was quite apparent to physicians across the country.

“I can say that almost 60 per cent of cancer patients — and we have about 50,000 cases per year — are in trouble,” he told Lancet.

Illegal markets flourishing

This, according to the report, has forced patients to turn to procuring drugs through friends and relatives abroad, often contravening laws.

The other option is to buy them from the unregulated local black market, where the drugs sold are either expired or of poor quality and that too at prices that are up to four times the market price. In the present times of adversity, this illegal market is apparently flourishing.

Indigenous industry affected

Iran, according to Mr. Malekzadeh, produces 90 per cent of the required drugs, but the industry is struggling to bring in active ingredients and intermediaries from abroad.

Sanctions on shipping insurance have affected transportation of any purchased goods.

Purchasing of even simple medical equipment, such as endoscopy instruments, was becoming increasingly difficult, he stated.

“To us, it seems like western powers have decided to punish the Iranian people,” he said.

Hopes for speedy agreement

According to Mr. Mohammadi, Iran was currently negotiating with India for the supply of 28 types of drugs. “Given the unfolding medical crisis in the country and the fact that help from the West was becoming increasingly unlikely, a speedy agreement on this and urgent shipment of drugs would be timely.”

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