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As US sanctions hit Iran, residents complain of medicine shortages

ABC News logo ABC News 2019-06-26
a group of people looking at a book shelf: People purchase medicine at a pharmacy in Tehran, Iran, Aug. 20, 2018. © Kyodo via AP, FILE People purchase medicine at a pharmacy in Tehran, Iran, Aug. 20, 2018.

Ghader Daemi Aghdam, an Iranian doctor and head of a pharmacy in the capital, Tehran, sat in his office, avoiding the chaos at the reception desk where patients were complaining that their prescriptions for medicine were not being filled.

"Out of every 20 people, we have to tell at least to ten that we have run out of medications they need," Daemi Aghdam told ABC News.

Since pulling out of a deal reached under the Obama administration, the U.S. government under President Donald Trump has reinstated a series of tough sanctions on Iran, with the latest, targeting Iran's supreme leader and other top officials in the the Iranian regime, being announced on Monday.

While humanitarian supplies, including medicine, is technically exempt, Iranians are already facing severe shortages and inflated prices for what is in stock.

(MORE: Trump announces new sanctions on Iran, including on supreme leader)

"The main problem with importing medication is the restrictions in international transactions," said Bashir Khaleqi, member of the Healthcare Commission of Iran's parliament, in an interview about the medication condition in the country with the semi-official Tasnim News Agency, on Tuesday.

"The artificial tear drop that my son has to use for his eye condition" has doubled in price, from the equivalent of about $2.50 to $5, said Maryam, 45, a housewife and mother of two who asked that her last name not to be used to protect the honor of her family. Another drop went from $1.50 to $8 in a year, she said.

Maryam's husband, who works full time, and her daughter, a part-time secretary, bring in a combined $75 a month.

a man standing in front of a refrigerator: An Iranian pharmacist arranges medicine on shelves at a pharmacy in central Tehran, Iran, Dec. 11, 2012. © Vahid Salemi/AP, FILE An Iranian pharmacist arranges medicine on shelves at a pharmacy in central Tehran, Iran, Dec. 11, 2012.

"We have to cut many expenses out to afford medication for my son and for myself," Maryam said, who suffers from lung problem after years of weaving carpets.

Some people have begin asking doctors to avoid prescribing foreign medications, and to instead prescribe medicines that were produced in Iran and might be more widely available. But others have voiced concerns about how sanctions have impacted the quality of medications produced domestically.

Daemi Aghdam believes that the sanctions might have impacted quality control in Iran's pharmaceutical companies.

"I can name companies that even the quality of their simple cold tablets has suffered after the sanctions" he said.

"People understand the difference. When they see the domestic medication does not work on them, they ask for its foreign sample," he added.

(MORE: Trump responds to Iranian insults with threat of 'obliteration')

It is not just the long lines of complaining patients at pharmacies that have revealed the problem. In the past few months, Iranians have taken to social media to post the names of drugs they need but cannot find in pharmacies.

In some cases, people have posted that they have a surplus of a given medicine and are willing to share the medication with others who need it.

"Friends, this is what remained from my mother's inflation medication after her recovered. Please let me know if you need this medication, or if you know anyone who does. Please retweet so anyone who needs it can get it. Thanks," said one post.

As for Maryam, she said she hopes that leaders can work out a solution.

"I know absolutely nothing about politics," she said. "But I do hope politicians care more about people. All I want is my son not to lose his sight and I can breath."


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