Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif once again highlighted the negative impacts of the US sanctions on Iran, including the country’s health sector.
Citing a story published in Foreign Policy titled ‘US sanctions are killing cancer patients in Iran’, the top Iranian diplomat in a Twitter post on Friday slammed the US administration’s “economic terrorism” on Iran which has also targeted Iranian patients.
“Don't take it just from me: https://foreignpolicy.com/2019/08/14/u-s-sanctions-are-killing-cancer-patients-in-iran/ … illustrates one impact of the Trump administration's #EconomicTerrorism on Iranians; from those directly involved in producing medicine for cancer patients,” Zarif wrote.
On Tuesday, Iran’s Health Minister Saeid Namaki in a letter to the chief of World Health Organization Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus urged the international body not to remain silent about the illegal sanctions reimposed by the US following its unilateral withdrawal from the 2015 Iran nuclear agreement.
Washington claims that sanctions on Iran won’t stop the supply of medicine and other humanitarian necessities, but banking restrictions are driving up import prices, blocking supply chains, and creating deadly drug shortages.
Although US sanctions are engineered in a way that may appear not to target humanitarian access to food and medicine, in practice US sanctions function as a tool of economic war, according to Foreign Policy.
Officials in Washington continue to insist that they maintain “exemptions” to their sanctions to protect humanitarian trade, even after the International Court of Justice has ruled that these exemptions are insufficient, leaving “little prospect of improvement” in the “serious detrimental impact on the health and lives” of Iranians individuals. At the end of the day, it is incumbent on the United States to heed this humanitarian warning.
Under US President Donald Trump, the situation has gotten worse. Census Bureau data shows that the United States exported an average of $26 million of pharmaceutical products to Iran annually during the Barack Obama-era sanctions. Exports have averaged just $8.6 million a year in the last two years under the more draconian sanctions policies of Trump.
The Trump administration has also made it more difficult for European countries to export medicine to Iran. Swiss pharmaceutical exports to Iran fell 30 percent from 235 million Swiss francs ($240 million) in 2017 to 163 million francs ($167 million) last year, according to Swiss customs data. Even though sanctions were only fully reimposed in November 2018, Swiss exports that year fell below the 173 million francs ($178 million) annual average observed from 2008 to 2015.
Similarly, French pharmaceutical exports to Iran fell 25 percent from 194 million euros ($218 million) to 146 million euros ($164 million) last year, slipping below the 2008 to 2015 average of 150 million euros ($168 million), according to data from Eurostat.
In response to such pressures, Iran has made important strides in safeguarding its people’s access to medication. Iran is a world leader in the production of generic drugs, helping significantly lower the cost of health care. According to Akbar Barandegi, director general of Iran’s Food and Drug Administration, almost 97 percent of the country’s needed pharmaceutical doses are provided by about 100 local pharmaceutical companies, most of which belong to the private sector. Just three percent of demand is met with imports, purchased from many of the world’s largest pharmaceutical companies.
These purchases may form only just a small proportion of total demand, but they relate to specific medications vital for the well-being of many patients, particularly those with advanced or chronic diseases.
Last year, several of my colleagues who work in the field of pediatric oncology published a note in The Lancet showing that chemotherapy drugs such as asparaginase, the leukemia treatment mercaptopurine, and even the basic painkiller paracetamol had run out of stock, threatening the treatment of thousands of children. Access to these medications is being significantly disrupted as a result of US sanctions against Iran.