Iran’s Medicine Mafia Behind Shortages and High Cost of Prescription Drugs – OpEd – Eurasia Review
A short prelude
Since the birth of the tyrannical regime of the mullahs in Iran, another social and frightening phenomenon has also been born; widespread monopolization. After the 1979 anti-monarchy revolution in Iran and the establishment of the religious dictatorship, the regime’s power vultures began to dominate and take control of the main outlets of the economy. The creation of a multitude of false and non-existent legal and illegal entities, holdings, bank accounts and businesses has been the evil product of this domination and control.
After the passage of more than four decades, the Iranian economy is recognized by its two distinct fronts. On the one hand, the regime, its repressive forces and its affiliates, and on the other, the Iranian people.
The first front is dominated by the office of Iran’s Supreme Leader Khamenei, which has around $200 billion in assets, the infamous Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and a host of other entities sharing the same ideas.
The second front is made up of ordinary Iranian citizens who, according to Speaker of Parliament Ghalibaf, make up around 94% of the population.
The current state of prescription drugs in Iran
The availability and affordability of prescription drugs in Iran fell sharply more than two years ago, and it has become almost impossible to find foreign drugs after the recent pandemic. According to media reports, ordinary Iranians are experiencing a severe shortage of prescription drugs and drug prices are skyrocketing across the country.
Many people complain that pharmacies are unable to supply their prescriptions. As expected, government officials are offering conflicting reasons — including US sanctions — for shortages and price hikes; however, pharmacists blame government mismanagement of health care, corruption, the black market and the collapse of Iran’s currency.
In September 2018, it was reported that the price of drugs prescribed to dialysis and kidney transplant patients had increased by 100-300% since March of the same year. Other prescription drugs have also seen unprecedented price increases. Many senior officials in the governments of former President Hassan Rouhani and current President Ebrahim Raisi have blamed current drug shortages on US-imposed economic sanctions. Yet the US Treasury Department’s list does not include drugs.
The source of the problem
The real reason for the shortage of prescription drugs lies in the Iranian regime’s corrupt system and its dominance over the pharmaceutical industry.
The Iranian medical mafia is not a new phenomenon; with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in Iran in 2019, people had to go through a winding path of illegal channels and contacts, called the Iranian medicine mafia, instead of pharmacies, to obtain prescription drugs, often paying much more than the advertised price. Looking back, one might realize that Iran’s medical mafia had been around for many years, but the spread of COVID-19 helped it gain strength and expansion.
Regarding the shortage of certain items in pharmacies, Ali Fatemi, Vice President of the Iranian Pharmacists Association, said: “Previously, the shortage of medicines was related to foreign medicines and medicines for certain diseases, but now we have problems in supplying certain Iranian medicines and this shortage in our country is unprecedented”.
Iran’s new budget and prescription drugs
To raise funds for its budget deficit, the government of Ebrahim Raisi plans to eliminate all pre-existing subsidies for prescription drugs. Facing public anger and widespread criticism from the regime’s own analysts and politicians, government officials say prescription drugs will still be subsidized because they fall under the subsidized exchange rate category.
However, leaders of drug importing companies insist that the prescription subsidies allocated in the budget are not enough to meet the need. The Director General for Pharmaceutical Affairs confirmed concerns raised by pharmaceutical companies about subsidies and their availability.
Iranians are angered by reports of drug trafficking and the sale of drugs on the black market, which is owned and controlled by regime elites. This is when the authorities claim to have enough funds to import certain drugs; drugs that cannot be found in pharmacies and that end up on the black market at exorbitant prices.
In a report published in January, Colonel Davoud Moazami Goudarzi, head of Tehran’s cyberpolice, said an Instagram page with more than 90,000 followers was selling drugs in cyberspace. The report says more than 500,000 rare drugs were confiscated from the site.
It is safe to say that in principle there are enough drugs in the country, but the Iranian medical mafia, i.e. the regime elites and the IRGC, are selling the drugs to desperate patients. through the black market to earn more money. Most Iranians cannot afford to buy drugs on the black market, which has led and may lead to more deaths and poverty