An Iranian lawmaker has warned about the failure of the government’s Medicine Assistance Plan to make prices affordable amid high inflation and rising poverty.

“Patients, particularly those with rare diseases, have been facing problems since the removal of medicine import subsidies,” Mohammad-Taghi Naghdali, a member of the parliament's judicial and legal committee, told the Iranian Students' News Agency (ISNA) Thursday, adding that lawmakers have warned that without allocation of cheap foreign currency to pharmaceutical imports the government's Medicine Assistance Plan is bound to fail.

Social media users say the cost of medicine has sharply risen in the past few months and some vital drugs for treatment of rare diseases are very hard to find except on the black market.

Pharmacies and insurance companies have also been complaining about the An Iranian lawmaker has warned about the failure of the government’s Medicine Assistance Plan to make prices affordable amid high inflation and rising poverty.

President Ebrahim Raisi announced in early May that his government had begun the process of removing up to $15 billion import subsidies for basic foods, medicine, and animal feed despite warnings of more inflation and hardship. Raisi also said the government would be paying cash assistance to most Iranians as compensation.

The removal of import subsidies meant that manufacturers would no longer receive cheap dollars from the government to import raw materials to produce medicine.

While the compensation for bread is directly paid to individuals, compensation for medicine is supposed to be made through the healthcare insurance companies which will then pay it to pharmacies.

Dr Ali Fatemi, deputy chairman of Iran Pharmacists Association, who is a critic of the government’s plan, said Friday that currently there is a serious shortage of antibiotics including antibiotic syrups for children as well as medication required for treatment of rare diseases and psychiatric drugs. He warned that some companies may cease production of antibiotics if demand drops due to unaffordable prices.

Lawmakers have summoned health minister Bahram Einollahi twice in the past month for explanations regarding the ambiguities in the government plan anda parliamentary committee has given the government two weeks to resolve these issues.

Some critics believe that the government’s healthcare policies are influenced by insider groups and state affiliated entities.

“It is now obvious for everybody that pharmaceuticals are controlled by mafia-like groups with ties to the government, the Execution of Imam Khomeini's Order Headquarters (EIKO), and the Supreme Leader's office,” Mohammad-Kazem Attari, US based physician and public health researcher, told Iran International.

EIKO, which is known in Persian simply as Setad is controlled by the Supreme Leader and his office. Another state entity, Barakat Foundation which is also under Supreme Leader's control, was put in charge of developing a homegrown COVID vaccine. The program ended in failure after squandering tens of millions of dollars and precious time that could have prevented around 40,000 deaths in July-September 2021.

Dr Attari said this influential group comes up with ad hoc and unconsidered plans, including the Medicine Assistance Plan, to secure its own interests whenever foreign currency for importing medicine and pharmaceutical products becomes scarce.

According to Dr Attari, this group has control over 60 to 80 percent of all pharmaceutical imports and production. “That’s why the Medicine Assistance Plan was hastily introduced in the system immediately after the removal of cheap import dollars without any pilot studies.

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