US sanctions hit Iranian patients once again

Al-Monitor | : Ghazal, a student, was thinking of purchasing Warfarin — an anticoagulant mostly imported from Finland — when a pharmacist in Tehran told her, “You better buy it today, or tomorrow you might not find it anymore.” In only a few months, the price of the drug has tripled due to the currency devaluation triggered by the US exit from the nuclear deal.

While US President Donald Trump on Nov. 2 amused his Twitter followers with a “Game of Thrones”-themed announcement of the reimposition of a second wave of penalties targeting Iran’s economy, Ghazal and millions of other Iranians are suffering the real-life consequences of his politics. The US sanctions imposed Nov. 5 add a further burden to an already ailing economy.

Humanitarian goods such as food, medicines and medical devices are in theory exempted from US sanctions. However, in practice, US restrictions on financial transactions between Iran and foreign banks are so tight that it is virtually impossible to implement the exception on humanitarian trade. In other words, even when Iran can find foreign pharmaceutical companies willing to sell necessary drugs, it generally can’t pay for them. This situation is a direct result of the US government’s issuing of harsh fines for violations of its secondary sanctions.

Iran has a significant pharmaceutical industry: Domestic producers are able to make 96% of medicines used by the country’s 80 million citizens. However, according to Abbas Kebriaeizade, head of the Iranian Pharmaceutical Industries Syndicate, half of the active ingredients of these medicines are imported. This leaves domestic producers directly exposed to foreign restrictions. Moreover, the 4% of medicines that Iranian drug companies do not make are commonly specialized and must be bought from abroad.

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