People from across Iran have sent audio messages to Iran International Television about the shortages and high prices of medicines and pharmaceutical products.
While Iranian officials claim there is no scarcity of medications, several Iranians from across the country have expressed their concerns about a lack of foreign medicines.
A citizen of Sardasht in West Azerbaijan told Iran International that the prices of a simple painkiller has increased over four times in recent months.
Another Iranian has talked about the sharp rise in the prices of simple cold medicines that increased about six times in recent weeks.
According to another citizens, most of the drugs which are not available in pharmacies are sold with higher prices in the black market.
In an audio file sent to Iran International, a citizen stressed that the Islamic Republic "has taken patients hostages."
This woman said that after six months since she registered her case with the Food and Drug Administration and the Red Crescent, now the medicine she needs is available, but at a price significantly higher than the normal price.
Last week, an official of Iran’s drug importers union saidgovernment claims of being self-sufficient in production of raw materials for medicines and pharmaceutical products is not true.
He also criticized government policies that led to the decrease in imports, warning that medication prices may rise dramatically in the coming months because of restrictions by the health ministry, not foreign sanctions. His comment referred to the fall in the value of Iran’s currency and the need for the government to provide subsidized dollars to importers.
The director-general of Drugs and Controlled Substances Department of Iran’s Health Ministry, Heidar Mohammadi, said in mid-December that if foreign currency is not provided for imports, shortages of medications will reach an alarming level in the upcoming months.
Noting that the number of unavailable drugs is about 40, he warned that unless the government provides cheap dollars, the list of unavailable drugs would hit 400 to 500 soon.
Iranian officials periodically try to blame United States' sanctions for shortages of medication, but in fact, food, health and humanitarian products are not sanctioned. Iran imports around 100 million euros of medicines a month just from Europe and also large quantities from China and India.
Just before the US pulled out of the 2015 nuclear agreement (JCPOA) in May 2018, the former Iranian president Hassan Rouhani decided to offer dollars at 42,000 rials for essential imports to keep food and medicine cheap. Current free market rate for dollars is 290,000 rials.
However, the subsidized dollars did little to keep prices low, simply due to the corruption ingrained in Iran’s supply chain. There are numerous exposed cases of companies applying to receive the cheap dollars to import essential commodities but pocketing huge profits by importing luxury goods, such as thousands of foreign cars.