Berro, a Syrian journalist who lives in Damascus and suffers from leukemia, tells Sky News Arabia his tragedy related to providing medicine personally, after the government hospital stopped providing it.
He says, “Unfortunately, the medicine needed for treatment is no longer available, which forces me to seek the assistance of foreign markets to secure it, at fantastic prices, which makes obtaining it permanently very difficult, not only because of its very high cost, but also because of the difficulties of delivering it inside.”
However, the suffering for Berro is not limited to the lack of medication only, but also extends to the lack of the necessary analysis to determine the percentage of his injury and monitor his response to treatment, and he has to determine the proportions and quantities needed for treatment with the drug dose.
My medication sufficiency is over
The pharmaceutical industry has always been considered one of the most important industrial sectors in Syria, not only in terms of achieving drug sufficiency for Syrians at low prices, but also to provide the Syrian economy with hard currency, through exports, by taking advantage of its high ability to compete with similar sources as a result of its appropriate prices compared to its quality.
However, this sector also, like most other productive sectors, was not spared the consequences of the devastating war in the country, which has transformed from a country that is largely locally sufficient, and an exporter of many types, to a country that imports even “anti-inflammatory” drugs in many cases.
All of this happened in less than half a decade, as Berro asserts that the situation was not that bad two years ago. When he was diagnosed with the disease, the government agencies were continuing to provide alternatives, at least in the event that it was impossible to secure the basic drug.
Berro explains that “the (Al-Biruni) Cancer Hospital in Damascus is trying as much as possible to secure alternatives, but these alternatives, of course, do not give the desired results, which increases the effects of the disease on me personally.”
In the same context, one of the women suffering from a neurological disease recounts her severe suffering in obtaining the necessary medication for her treatment, after the recommended brand was cut off, and the alternatives were not available.
The forty-year-old woman confirms to “Sky News Arabia”, asking not to reveal her name, that she is willing to pay double the price in exchange for finding it or a replacement for it, as her search attempts were futile, neither she nor her children, who were distributed to the capital’s pharmacies.
The stories of suffering are similar, but differ in the type of medicine lost, in a crisis that not only affected the Syrian citizen, despite the fact that he was the most affected, but the pharmacists also had a share of this suffering.
The suffering, as the pharmacist Muhammad Al-Aqel explains, in his speech to “Sky News Arabia” was that drug stores obliged pharmacies to buy unwanted medicines as a condition for providing them with the most demanded and obligatory items, which causes the stagnation of some medicines on the shelves of pharmacies, and causing material losses. she has.
Al-Aqil adds that other problems are represented in stopping the sale of many items and the lack of alternatives to them, in addition to the division of the drug market into two parts: a regular market in which the necessary quantities of medicine are not available to cover demand, and a black market in which all types are available but at double prices, which puts the pharmacist in the face With a patient who accuses them of greed and monopoly.
The sane person holds the Ministry of Health responsible for the crisis because of its lack of flexibility in pricing mechanisms, so that prices become commensurate with the cost and the lack of adequate control over the laboratories, which, according to the sane person, was the reason for the emergence of the black market.
He deplored the absence of a pharmacist representative in the drug pricing committee in exchange for the presence of representatives from the ministries of economy and health, which creates a gap between the Pharmacists Syndicate and the Ministry of Health.
On the other hand, the voices of factory owners are calling for a solution to the losses they are incurring. The problem of losing many types of medicines is due to the factories reducing their production against the background of problems related to the doubling of the prices of raw materials globally, in addition to the high cost due to the deterioration of the value of the Syrian pound, in return for not keeping pace with the prices set by the relevant ministries for this difference in price.
Opinion of factory owners
Despite the approval of two increases in drug prices last year, the balance between the cost and sales price is still missing, according to the factory owners, who support their demands to raise the prices of medicines compared to the rise in food prices and all other materials that the citizen consumes with the rise in the price of the dollar.
The external sanctions imposed on Syria, which impede obtaining many of the raw materials needed for the pharmaceutical industry, in addition to the foreign companies withdrawing their privileges granted to 58 Syrian pharmaceutical companies, have exacerbated the problem.
In conjunction with the discontinuation of medicine and its scarcity in the market, the phenomenon of smuggling medicine abroad, especially Lebanon and Iraq, has emerged. It has become common for many “cut” items to be found in the local market, despite it being a Syrian industry, in return for its abundant availability in neighboring countries.
Pharmaceutical laboratories’ exports declined due to external sanctions to record only 10 percent of their total exports recorded in 2010, as the number of countries importing Syrian medicine declined from about 44 countries before 2011 to about 10 countries currently only, with an annual loss of about $200 million.