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Iran Lawmaker Blames U.S. Sanctions For Shortage Of Medical Devices

Behrouz Bonyadi Iranian MP. File photo
Behrouz Bonyadi Iranian MP. File photo

Iran continues to face serious problems with the import of medicines and medical equipment as a result of sanctions imposed by the U.S., according to Behrouz Bonyadi, a lawmaker who sits on the parliamentary health and treatment commission in Tehran

Sanctions “have definitely affected transactions for medicine and foodstuff,” he told the Iranian Labor News Agency (ILNA) on Sunday, June 2.

Despite some claims to the contrary, most reports consistently point to a shortage of both drugs and kits.

Washington has repeatedly insisted, however, that exporting medicine and foodstuff to Iran is exempt from its sanctions.

Bonyadi also added that countries such as Switzerland have announced readiness to help Iran to procure medicines and medical equipment.

Figures from the Iranian Chamber of Commerce show imports last year included $1.24bn worth of medicines from 80 countries, with $213m from Switzerland and even $33m from the U.S.

Citing the effect of sanctions, deputy health minister Qassim Janbabaei told ILNA on Sunday: “We are struggling with the shortage of radiotherapy devices”.

He added, however, that Iran hoped to import “32 devices” by March 20 next year, “to relieve the shortage in part."

Janbabaei added that sufficient heart batteries and cardioverter defibrillators had been delivered to the medical centers across the country.

Last week, Mojtaba Najafi of the Islamic Republic’s Food and Drug Administration told ILNA that there were no specific obstacles to importing radiotherapy devices to Iran.

However, prices for medical devices are a different matter. Recent reports indicate that the cost of medical equipment and supplies has increased four to five times. That is in line with how much the Iranian rial has depreciated against major currencies in the past 18 months.

But in fact, it should not work that way when the government supplies cheap dollars and euros to importers of essential goods, including foodstuff and medical needs.

In February, Tehran’s prosecutor-general, Abbas Jafari Dolatabadi said the government allocated $3.5bn in subsidized currency for importing medicines and medical equipment, but it was not clear how it was spent.

Reports of financial corruption in drugs and medical equipment supply lines are rife.

In January neurologist Hamid Reza Janqorban, and his dermatologist wife, Azadeh Sajjadiyyeh, were sentenced to a total of 30 years in jail and ordered to pay a fine of 1,200 trillion rials ($28.5m) .

Dubbed as the “sultans of medical equipment” by media, the couple were found to have bought nearly half a million fake devices from China costing $73m. These were then re-labelled and sold domestically as UK-made products.

The court was told the pair had paid $7.3m commission to more than 220 physicians and specialists across the country to utilize their products.