The new round of the US sanctions against Iran’s energy and bank sectors, which started on November 5, does not include any sanctions on medicine as humanitarian supplies are officially exempted from the sanctions.
Despite this, Iranian state media have reported that foreign chemotherapy drugs that have the Iranian equivalent inside the country have been excluded from health insurance.
“The Ministry of Health has in an unprecedented move excluded foreign chemo drugs from health insurance,” ILNA state-run News Agency reported on November 5.
This is while foreign chemo drugs are more effective and doctors insist on using non Iranian medicine to treat cancer.
The monthly price of chemo drugs are several times more than the monthly income of a worker in Iran.
“Under current circumstances, the exclusion of these medicines from health insurance can endanger the health of low income patients and put extraordinary pressure on the livelihood of families with cancer patients,” the news agency which mostly covers labor news added.
According to Alireza Heidari, the Vice President of the Union of Workers’ Pioneers in Iran, the reason behind the exemption was solely due to the “negative effects of the currency rate on insurance funds.”
“This has happened due to limitations on the financial sources of the fund. No one listened to our warnings and cries to be careful about the financial sources of the insurance funds,” he added in comments carried by ILNA.
“I am confident that this decision will have a negative effect on the health of cancer patients who are in a very sensitive situation, and low income families will suffer the most harm. These are families who cannot afford the doctor’s recommended medicines with the currency rate from the free market and will suffer the consequences,” the Vice President of the government backed labor union said.
“A laborer pays for insurance for 30 years with the hope that if he or his family become ill, they would enjoy free health benefits. There is no higher injustice than taking away that right from him,” he added.
“Some time before this, the Minister of Health said in regards to patients suffering from SMA that there was ‘no reason to spend lots of money on a patient who is on the verge of dying and postpone his\her death for only six months.’ This is the mindset behind the exclusion of chemotherapy medicine from health insurance,” Heidari said.
The trade unionist said that the strategies of the Health Ministry were detrimental to the deprived and poverty stricken people and forecasted more of the same for the future.
In August, Health Minister Hassan Ghazi Zadeh Hashemi made controversial remarks when asked in a TV interview why the Ministry of Health did not recognize Spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) as an illness and refused to help those suffering from the ailment.
“Our budget is limited and paying for such patients to only prolong their lives for a couple more years is not economical,” he said in comments that led to a national outrage with families of children with SMA gathering outside the Ministry of Health building in protest to the Ministry refusing to bring in their needed medicine.