The Vanishing of Chronic Disease Medicines in Yemen!

Between monopoly and high prices
Safa Alsdawi
October 21, 2022

The Vanishing of Chronic Disease Medicines in Yemen!

Between monopoly and high prices
Safa Alsdawi
October 21, 2022
Photo by Hamza Mustafa - Khuyut

Recently, the drug market witnessed the disappearance of a number of medicines; Some of them are medications for chronic diseases and some are for common diseases, while alternative medicines that are not as effective as the original medicines have recently appeared; This reflected negatively on patients who need these medications, especially the elderly and those in critical conditions.

Many justifications have been said about the reasons for the evaporation of these medicines from pharmacies, but it is certain that the conflict crisis that the country is going through is not the sole cause. It is noteworthy that the missing medicines reappeared after a short period of time at double prices, the percentage of increase sometimes exceeding 50% for some items.

The most prominent vanished drugs

In addition to medicines for chronic diseases and epilepsy diseases, medicines that are considered as essentials for the treatment of common diseases also disappeared, such as: effervescent (Solpadine), children's drops (Vidrop), all kinds of Panadol, and the diabetes drug (Diamicron), which was substituted by another smuggled brand sold as an alternative to the original medicine. In addition to (Letrox), which is intended for treating the thyroid gland, and the contraceptive pill(Novinet), according to Hood Amin, a packaging supervisor at the Saba Pharma, a leading Yemeni Pharmaceutical Company, in an interview with "Khuyut".

Moreover, the drug (Imuran), which is used to boost immunity, is one of the most prominent types of medicine that has reappeared after its long disappearance from the markets. However, its price has increased exponentially, exceeding 20,000 riyals, forcing patients to resort to an alternative smuggled drug - unknown source and risks - at a price of 5,000 riyals. As well as (Plavix), the drug used to reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke, which is prescribed permanently to patients suffering from diseases of pressure, heart and diabetes, as its price reached up to 20 thousand riyals.

In this regard, Dr. Abdullah Haser, a pharmacist, told “Khuyut”: “There are a number of medicines that are not available in the market, the prices of which are less than five or four thousand only, but recently they are witnessing a new price that is double the old prices, such as: some diabetes and pressure medications. This puts patients in front of difficult choices, between buying the good medicines at double prices, or resorting to cheap smuggled medicines that the average patient cannot afford to buy.”

The pharmacist, Abdel Nasser Shams El-Din, told "Khuyut" that: "Some medicines have disappeared from the market because of the plan to increase its tariff and introduce a new pricing. Its prices are manipulated by traders which led to the disappearance of well-known drugs and the emergence of other smuggled ones."

On the ground, the local pharmaceutical companies were unable to cover a third of the increasing local demand for medicines before the war, but after the war, the situation even worsened, despite the efforts made by some local companies to meet the need, especially medicines required for heart diseases, pressure and diabetes, and medicines for mental and nerve disorders.

For his part, Dr. Anwar Al-Ahdal, Deputy Director of Tuberculosis TB Hospital in Al-Hodeidah, and Director of Dubai Medical Stores, indicated that medicines rank sixth among the 30 most important commodities imported to the Yemeni market, which the Yemeni private sector imports to cover the needs of the market, despite the instability of the value of imports, which fluctuates between 50 and 95 billion riyals. 

Al-Ahdal added, in his interview with Khuyut: “There was an agreement between us and the Sana’a government, which stipulates the necessity of allowing urgent and sufficient imports of the necessary pharmaceutical items that Yemeni markets need, and the formation of a sufficient drug stock for the remainder of the current year. This comes within the framework of import approvals for the registered medical items. Exceptional import approvals were granted for important essential goods to cover the urgent need for some items required in the Yemeni markets.

Obstacles facing drug importers

Moreover, there is grumbling among pharmaceutical companies and drug importers about the restrictions that are being exercised against them by official authorities and institutions, and medical and health authorities in various major provinces and governorates. They also reported many difficulties they faced during the recent crisis and faced since the beginning of the war in Yemen, including: various levies, delays at customs ports, and routine procedures that cause them many losses and damages. Additionally, they complain about obstacles related to granting approvals to registered and certified companies and companies, especially those that have international certificates, as well as the exemptions and facilities necessary for some key types of medicines, medical supplies and vitamins that are included in the treatment protocol for the prevention, and enhancing immunity to confront the corona virus.

Moreover, Hood Amin reassures patients who buy alternative medicines, by saying: "The fake (alternative) medicines are very many, some of them are effective and may work just like the original medicine, according to the manufacturer of this medicine."

Noting that the locally manufactured medicines may have disappeared because the parent company did not produce that drug, for reasons that are also related to the prevention of raw materials to enter Yemen, or because of the delay in their arrival or because of the monopoly practiced by some drug dealers as a result of people's petition for it.

Further, Amin says that some importers may follow the policy of withholding medicines, with the aim of exhausting all the remaining quantities in the market, after which newly imported medicines are gradually offered at the price the importer wants. This explains the reason for the disappearance and sudden appearance of some medicines at a great price. This in addition to the customs procedures, which are very careful so that it leads to the detention at the customs ports and outlets. Furthermore, the security checkpoints scattered along the roads between cities, where royalties are paid at each point, and all of this is added to the price of the drug, to reach the consumer at fantastic prices that he cannot afford.

 Deterioration of health

On the ground, the local pharmaceutical companies were unable to cover a third of the increasing need for medicines before the war, but after the war, the situation worsened, despite the efforts made by some local companies to meet the demand, especially medicines required for heart diseases, stress and diabetes, and medicines for mental and nerve disorders. However, there are plenty of obstacles stand in the way of these companies; Most notably, the inability to achieve stability and manufacturing accuracy, or the lack of a 100% sterile production line. 

The suffering of patients who do not find the prescribed medicines for them specifically, or those who find it at double prices, is summarized to "Khuyut" by Najeeba Yahya, a housewife, who said: “I was completely unable to provide oncology medicine for my father, because the hospital in which he was treated, asked us for the price of the drug at the black market price, which we cannot pay. A nurse advised us to rely on herbs as an alternative, although I do not know whether herbs actually work, and at the same time my brother buys counterfeit medicine for my father, hoping that he may benefit from it.”

Likewise, Sumaya Yahya suffers from inactivity of the ovaries due to thyroid diseases, so the doctor prescribed Letrox for her to treat the thyroid gland, as she was using it to get pregnancy, which was 15 years late, but due to the disappearance of this drug that she was using, it affected her negatively, and she got symptoms of obesity.

Ghaniah Mohammad (60 years old), told "Khuyut" that: "My health has deteriorated because I did not take fat medication regularly, that caused my blood sugar and pressure disorders, which in turn affected the uterus so that its removal was a prerequisite."

Safa Alsdawi

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