An Iranian member of parliament has warned about a looming crisis triggered by medicine shortage, saying that nearly 200 medications are not available.
Mohammad-Ali Mohseni-Bandpey, a member of the parliament's health committee warned in an interview with ILNA news website on Saturday that if a solution is not found, the issue may turn into a social, political, economic, and health crisis.
He said the government's huge debts to the social security organization and the organization's debts to hospitals, as well as the lack of sufficient drug production in the country are the most important factors contributing to the crisis.
During the past years, the authorities attributed medicine shortages in the country to the US sanctions, claiming that the sanctions targeted ordinary people. However, import of humanitarian items, including medicine, is exempt from US embargoes. In fact, Iran has been purchasing around two billion dollars' worth of medicines and raw materials annually for producing drugs from Europe and India.
The Foundation for the Defense of Democracies had previously written in a report that corruption, not sanctions, is causing medicine shortages in Iran.
While European countries had launched the INSTEX mechanism with the permission of the US to export humanitarian items to Iran, they discontinued it in March of last year because of Iran's unwillingness to use this mechanism.
In a joint statement in March, Germany and France said the Iranian leadership has chosen to act against the interests of its people by refusing to cooperate in the export of medicine and other life-saving goods.
Bandpey further noted that in a meeting held last week, the ministers of labor, health, intelligence and the representatives of the Central Bank, as well as the Revolutionary Guard acknowledged that if a solution is not found, this issue may turn into a big problem.
He also referred to the 180-million-dollar debt of the social security organization to hospitals and the government's “ten times larger” debt to this organization, saying that there is a shortage of medicine even in the emergency rooms of hospitals and people have to look for medicines outside the hospital, meaning in the black market.
He underlined that the country cannot produce enough drugs, because the cost of the medicines is more than government mandated prices. Iran's economy is mostly controlled by the government, especially imports of goods, which needs foreign currencies.
Earlier this year, Bandpey said the pharmaceutical companies are moving to other countries as there are "serious hurdles” to their activities.
In January an official of Iran’s drug importers union, Mojtaba Bourbour, challenged government officials’ claims about self-sufficiency in production of medicines and said not only up to 90 percent of raw material is imported from countries such as China and India, but also some medicines are imported from China but sold under Iranian labels.