08/20/2019, 08.00
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US sanctions stop vital medicines and kill the sick

The restrictions increase prices, block supplies and cause serious shortcomings.  Cancer patients, especially children, are also at risk.  It is also difficult to find a simple paracetamol.  Drug imports from the United States and Europe collapsed with Trump.  The risk is the invasion of counterfeit medicines on the market.

Tehran (AsiaNews) - The economic sanctions, part of Washington's campaign of "maximum pressure" on Tehran, have caused a serious shortage of medicines in Iran, including vital chemotherapeutic drugs. 

Abbas Kebriaeezadeh, Professor of pharmacology at the University of Medical Sciences of Tehran, current vice-president of the pharmaceutical union and president of Baran Chemical and Pharmaceutical Company, spoke to Foreign Policy, pointing out that restrictive measures on the banking system "are raising import prices, block the supply chain and cause serious shortages of medicines".

In a survey published in Lancet, stocks of chemotherapy drugs such as asparaginase or mercaptopurines to treat leukemia and paracetamol itself, a basic medicine to treat pain, are depleted and no longer found on the shelves.  The lack of medicines seriously endangers the lives of many, especially children and the weak.

The numbers confirm the emergency: during the Obama presidency, the United States exported pharmaceutical products to Iran each year for 26 million dollars.  Over the past two years, with Donald Trump's arrival at the White House, trade has collapsed to just over 8 million.

 The US administration is also hindering the sale of drugs produced in Europe.  Switzerland has seen its business volume fall by 30%, from $ 240 million in 2017 to $ 167 million the following year.  A lower figure than the average recorded between 2008 and 2015. France recorded a 25% drop, from 194 million euros to 146 million euros;  also here, a figure lower than the average of 150 million euros recorded in the present years (Eurostat data).

US-Iranian tensions were triggered by US President Donald Trump’s 2018 decision to pull out of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) ​​agreed by his predecessor, Barack Obama, which was followed by the toughest sanctions in history against Iran. Washington, which has its sight sets on the oil exports of the Islamic Republic has strengthened the military presence in the area. But the sanctions are primarily affecting the population.

Because of the sanctions, access to drugs has fallen drastically and restrictions on the banking system actually prevent purchases from Asian suppliers, in addition to a peak in prices.  Doctors show particular concern for pediatric cancer patients and those at risk, with advanced disease.  Washington, the experts warn, uses sanctions as a weapon in economic warfare.

The sanctions, explains Abbas Kebriaeezadeh, have a strong impact on the availability of medicines, interrupt the internal production of drugs and undermine the health system.  Some require up to 15 different substances, coming from different nations;  the absence of one of these, makes the production of the drug impossible.  The most obvious consequence is the source of a network of traffickers who import counterfeit medicines from Pakistan, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), of low quality and largely ineffective, which seriously endanger public health.

Tehran has been a leader in the production of generic medicines in the past, contributing significantly to the general lowering of prices.  US officials speak of "exceptions" to the policy of sanctions, to protect trade in humanitarian goods and basic necessities, as required by the International Court of Justice itself.  However, the expert concludes, these exceptions are insufficient and the danger to Iranian public health is high.

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