Iran continues to grapple with a severe shortage of medicine, which poses a significant risk to its population. Ordinary people are burdened by the distressing dilemma of scarce medicines and exorbitant prices. The pharmaceutical sector in Iran is on the brink of bankruptcy, facing an unprecedented crisis.

Patients suffering from specific ailments bear the brunt of the inadequate availability of medicines. With unchecked inflation and increasing poverty, a significant portion of society is reaching a critical point where they cannot afford treatment for severe illnesses.

Mohammad Ali Mohseni Bandpay, a member of the Health and Treatment Commission of the Parliament (Majlis), attributes the departure of pharmaceutical companies to “serious operational obstacles.” Bandpay further acknowledges the dissatisfaction among the people due to the “shortage and low quality” of medicines, which has led to the exodus of pharmaceutical companies from Iran.

The existence of a “medicine mafia” in regulating prices has disrupted the country’s drug production. Despite their interest in production and job creation, medicine companies are forced to relocate their operations to countries like Turkey.

The inability to preserve financial and moral capital is described as a destructive phenomenon prevalent at all levels of the regime, and this trend has accelerated under the leadership of Ebrahim Raisi’s government.

On June 19, the regime’s Minister of Health, Bahram Eynollahi, confirmed problems regarding the payment of “cash and facilities” to pharmaceutical companies in the parliament. The Central Bank has promised to pay $600 million to pharmaceutical companies, but the ministry requires a budget of $2.1 billion to prevent a shortage of medicines and medical equipment. Only $1.38 billion has been approved for this year’s budget.

Unofficial reports suggest that delayed payment of medicine subsidies has resulted in a shortage of important medications, only three months into the new year. The head of the regime’s Health and Treatment Commission, Hossein Ali Shahriari, expressed concern about the shortage and the burden of skyrocketing prices on citizens, accusing Ministry of Health officials of making false statements about the issue.

In recent years, the shortage of raw materials for medicine production has become the main problem for manufacturers, especially with fluctuating exchange rates and untimely allocation of medicine subsidies. News of the potential closure of medicine production units has further indicated a critical situation in the country’s production. Patients report that some medications are simply unavailable, and if found, they are only accessible at exorbitant prices in the black market.

To compensate for the $110 million reduction in medicine subsidies compared to the previous year, the regime’s parliament has decided to reduce customs duties on imports by one percent. However, warnings have been issued regarding the importation of goods under the guise of medicine, taking advantage of this provision. Pharmaceutical companies are importing other goods while benefiting from the medicine import license.

As the second quarter of the year approaches, reports indicate that the regime has not provided any subsidies for medications since the beginning of the year, leading to a scarcity of strategic medications in the market. Last year, the amount of medical care subsidies was $1.46 billion, while this year, the Ministry of Health’s requirement was $2.1 billion. The government and parliament only approved $1.38 billion.

The activities of the medicine mafia have expanded, resulting in medicine being made available at higher prices. Patients seeking lower-cost medication often face challenges and find the prices fluctuating. Intermediaries attribute these fluctuations to changes in exchange rates and the risk of the drug supply. Government intervention in drug pricing and untimely allocation of foreign currency for imports have created favorable conditions for the drug mafia to thrive. Consequently, while medicine exists, it is expensive and not easily accessible to everyone.

The tragic situation worsens for most of the society who are below the poverty line, with 96 percent unable to make ends meet. The main culprits for this dire situation are the regime’s Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) and the Executive Headquarters of Khomeini’s Order, who have created a black market for drugs.

The people hold the regime and its supreme leader, Ali Khamenei, responsible for the critical situation. On the streets and social media platforms, there are repeated calls for the overthrow of Khamenei and the downfall of his corrupt regime, as evidenced by slogans like “Death to Khamenei!” heard during recent protests.