Iranians have reported a shortage of insulin, a vital medication for diabetes, in pharmacies across Iran. According to the state-run Entekhab website, Mahmoud Najafi Arab, the Head of Health Economic Commission of the Tehran’s Chamber of Commerce said “over 1.5 times the need of the nation is being imported just like every year”, however, Iran’s insulin shortage is due to the trafficking of insulin. He also said that people with diabetes have to buy insulin from the black market at eight times the pharmacy price or are forced to use expired insulin.
“The imported insulin is exported again, or in other words, it leaves the country via illegal means,” said Mahmoud Najafi Arab.
Iran’s insulin shortage
Iranians used the hashtag #انسولین_نیست or “There is no insulin” to shed light on the insulin shortage in Iran. The hashtag was trending on Twitter for Iran on October 18 and 19.
In Iran, 5 million people have diabetes, and over 600,000 need to use insulin daily to stay healthy.
According to the report, Najafi Arab said that insulin was not the only drug smuggled out of the country.
“All expensive drugs are smuggled,” he added.
He said the reason behind the trafficking of medication was because of fixed government rates of the dollar (4,200 tomans) which enables the import of drugs at low prices. Traffickers than export the drugs at normal exchange rate prices, currently 29,000 tomans to the dollar.
A report by Eghtesad Online website stated that the Head of the Food and Drug Administration blamed Iran’s insulin shortage on the “enemy’s” sanctions.
Ironically, the sanctions target the regime’s illicit activities, including its funding of terrorist groups, the development of nuclear bombs and weapons of mass destruction, and its human rights abuses. Humanitarian aid such as food and medicine have been exempted from sanctions. Moreover, the U.S. has tried to make it easier for the regime to purchase or trade medicine and hospital equipment.
Insulin smuggled to Iraq
According to a report by the state-run Tabnak website, the Iraqi Military Intelligence announced on October 14 that a large medical cargo of drugs from Iran was confiscated, including 19 trucks full of medicine.
This is while, several Iranian health ministry officials made contradictory statements, saying the 19 trucks of medicines were purchased from Iranian pharmacies, but later changed their statements and said that there were non-Iranian cargo, purchased from Turkey, India, Indonesia, China and the UAE.
Kianoush Jahanpour, an official in the Health Ministry said the confiscated drugs in Iraq included insulin as one of the main drugs in the cargo.
Using insulin from China
Despite the social media outrage over the shortage of insulin, Iran Minister of Health Saeed Namaki, said on October 20th, that Iran was not experiencing a shortage of insulin.
“We imported it last year for all diabetes patients in the country. We even produce it internally, which might be delayed but this is due to the US sanctions on medication.”
Alireza Esteghamati, endocrinology and metabolism specialist, said in an interview with the state-run Jahan-e-Sanat daily, that the insulin Iran claims it has produced “internally” is actually imported from China, and that the product is banned in Europe, the USA and Australia.
“People claim ‘insulin pens’ are produced in Iran, but the raw materials are imported from China by the Pouyesh Company.”
He said Iranian specialists are under pressure to approve the insulin. “When that insulin is banned by developed countries, how can we prescribe it to our patients?”