By Jubin Katiraie

In a comprehensive report released Tuesday, the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) revealed shocking details about the Iranian government's inhumane practice of stealing medicine. The report explained that the shortage of medicine has become a major crisis in Iran, with some medicines becoming extremely scarce and prices rising considerably.

This dramatically affects the everyday lives of Iranians, especially those suffering from terminal diseases or on low incomes (which is most Iranians), and has increased the pain of patients and the death rate. Many Iranians have even been forced to sell their organs to pay for their relatives’ medicines.

Now, the Iranian government has claimed that this shortage is the result of the sanctions imposed recently by the US, but food and medicine are exempted from the sanctions, so this is really easy to disprove. The shortage is actually the result of “widespread state corruption”, according to the NCRI, with much of the budget allocated to pharmaceutical production and imports being stolen or embezzled.

Minister of Health Saied Namaki said in July that $1.3 billion of the medical equipment budget has disappeared and no one knows where. The NCRI says that if you look at the computer system, which is only accessible to a few individuals, you can see that someone looking to make a major profit from the government’s artificially set exchange rate used the money to import non-medical items and luxury goods. In December, the Iranian authorities also promised 500 million Euros to the medicine and medical equipment Industry, but by February, half of it was missing.

We can see that this corruption has been going on for years in the medical industry, with former Minister of Health Marzieh Vahid Dastjerdi admitting that during Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s second presidential term, when they desperately needed more money for medicine, the government prioritized cosmetics, cars, dog food, shovels, and saddles above this.

 

Customs office deputy Mohammad Reza Naderi said in 2013 that there was enough medicine in the country, but it was piled up in the customs warehouses, while Mahmoud Bahmani, President of the Central Bank, said that people were taking advantage of the government’s low rate for foreign currency for medical imports to import “75 ships of vehicles and luxury goods”.

But let’s look at the hoarding of medicines. In order to jack up the price, some have been importing medicines cheaply, storing them, and essentially holding people to ransom in order to make a profit.

Mohsen Jalavati, vice-chair of the Transparency and Justice Watch Organization said: “One of the import companies benefitting from low rate dollar for import of medicines had recently threatened the Deputy Minister of Health that if the prices of its medicines are not raised by 60 percent, these items would not be released from customs to cause shortage in the country.”

The NCRI concluded: “The critical problems concerning medicine in Iran are a direct result of the regime’s practices and policies... Alongside widespread theft, medical shortages and high prices are caused by monopolies hoarding medicine with the backing of senior officials.”

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