Soaring medicine prices affect patients; Many not able to buy prescriptions
The decision to raise the price of drugs by 50% imposed additional burdens on the majority of Syrians, constituting a new weight added to the hardships of living as a result of economic inflation, the devaluation of the pound, the spread of corruption and mismanagement of available resources.
Abdul-Latif, a seventy-year-old retired employee from the coastal city of Latakia, is still facing great difficulty in finding his hypertension Ludtan-type medication to the point that the pharmacist suggested that he take another medication with a stronger dosage, on the condition that he take half a pill and not a whole pill.
Abdul-Latif said that he and many people suffering from his illness have resorted to this trick, and they are now buying their medicine in half the envelope instead of the full package, first because of the high price, and they are waiting for their medicine to be available at any moment second, so that they do not have to throw away what they paid for.
The seventy-year-old now buys half a box of medicine at a price of 8,000 Syrian pounds, while the price of a box of his Ludtan medicine does not exceed 6,000 SYP. Today, the pharmacist told him that the price of this medicine has become 9,000 SYP.
He added, “The calculation hurts the head. The pharmacist told me that the combined price of my medicines now costs me 43,000 SYP per month. Where do I get them from? The best thing is that God (Allah) takes our soul and comforts us all.”
Abdul-Latif’s salary is about 80,000 SYP, and with the increase in salaries that was approved simultaneously with the lifting of subsidies and raising the price of fuel, on August 15, his salary will not exceed 150,000 SYP and maybe less after deducting income tax, and therefore about a third of his salary will go to medicines, without the price of food and the rest of his basic needs are calculated.
On August 10, the Directorate of Pharmaceutical Affairs at the Ministry of Health published a new price list that included more than 12,000 drug groups from various local drug factories.
Psychiatric medications are not available
Among the medicines that were lost in pharmacies in the ongoing drug crisis are psychiatric medicines, which many Syrians accept as a result of the spread of depression due to stressful living conditions.
“It is as if my concern to see my young son suffering from depression is not enough, so now I have to be concerned about securing medicines,” said Mona, 57, whose son stopped taking his medicines about seven days ago when his last pill ran out, to replace it with less effective alternatives compared to his condition. The doctor told her it was better than being completely off medication.
Her son, Samer, 25, a history graduate from Tishreen University, failed to find any work, whether in his specialty or outside of it, and was also subjected to fraud while preparing his documents for travel.
The man who promised Samer to help him cross the border deceived him and took $1,500 from him, which the family got after selling all their gold savings and a piece of land they owned to give their son a better future.
The previous circumstances caused Samer to become depressed to the point where he thought of committing suicide, but his mother saved him at the last moment and took him to the hospital, she told Enab Baladi, adding that the lack of his medication today threatens to deteriorate his condition and he may commit suicide again, as his doctor told her.
Mona explained that her son needed the medicine Hayalepsin, which they were buying for 13,500 SYP, and after the price of the medicine increased, she went to the pharmacy to ask about it, only for the pharmacist to tell her that it was not yet available, and that its price today was about 21,000 SYP.
This will increase the pressure on the family, which includes two retired parents and another daughter who works in the private sector, in addition to Samer, who remains confined to the house.
($1=13,100 SYP) according to the S-P Today website, which covers the trading rate of the Syrian pound to the dollar.
Medicines will not be available for 15 days
Lama (pseudonym) a 37-year-old pharmacist said that medicines in Latakia city will not be available for 15 days, as told by the drug distribution agents she contacted to provide her with medicine, since the announcement of the price hike.
The pharmacist added that the majority of the missing medicines were for chronic diseases such as pressure, diabetes, and the heart, in addition to medicines for mental illnesses, pointing out that these medicines are the most demanded in the Syrian market today.
Lama added, quoting the representatives of the pharmaceutical laboratories with whom she communicates, that the laboratories are not satisfied with the new price, as it demanded that the medicines be increased by varying rates between 100 and 150%.
However, the increase obtained by pharmaceutical factories was only 50%, which threatens new bottlenecks and other crises to come, especially after raising the price of fuel, which contributes to an increase in costs for laboratories.
Patients in distress
Pharmacist George, 45, who owns a pharmacy on al-American Street in Latakia, said that the medicines that were recently cut off were of specific dosages, and they are the dosages most requested by patients, such as Divoltan 5/80 for hypertension, whose price was 7,000 SYP and today it is about 12,000 SYP.
He added that diabetes medications, such as Glimid, are now priced at 8,000 SYP, after it was 5,000 SYP, and psychiatric medications, such as Hayalepsin and Finlepsin, rose from 13,500 to 21,000 SYP.
The pharmacist mentioned that despite the presence of his pharmacy in a neighborhood that is considered one of the most luxurious neighborhoods in the city, many patients used to come to him to buy half a box of medicine, even though they needed the entire box.
When George asks them about the reason, they tell him that they are rationing their medicine, so they do not take it regularly, but rather reduce the quantity in half as a result of the high price of the medicine, which is beyond their ability to bear.
The pharmacist pointed out the danger of this phenomenon, and what hurt him the most, according to what he said, was that a woman came to ask him to buy hypertension medicine by pill, because she did not have the money to wait for her pension.
Like the rest of other files, the government of the regime in Syria failed to manage the drug file, and the Ministry of Health remained at the mercy of pharmaceutical laboratories and companies, which every time their request to raise the price of medicine is rejected, resort to cutting it from the market and stopping its production and distribution, until the Health Ministry submits to its demands, in a phenomenon that has been repeated several times previously.
Medicine has become limited to the class of the rich and the well-to-do, and as for the poor, they have no choice but to live with their pain without the success of the regime’s government’s “steadfastness” speeches in giving them a dose of medicine to cure their chronic diseases.
Hassan al-Ghabash, Minister of Health, said last May that there is no intention to raise the price of medicines at present, but after three months, the prices of medicines have increased, which is the second increase during the current year, after a similar increase in January that reached 80%.
Last April, the head of the Damascus Pharmacists Syndicate, Dr. Hassan Dirwan, said in statements to local radio Melody FM that raising the price of medicine reduced the demand for medicines and reduced sales by 40%.
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