EghtesadOnline: The United States has specifically warned South Korean pharmaceutical companies manufacturing medicines for a group of rare diseases called mucopolysaccharidosis (MPS) against working with Iran, the head of Food and Drug Administration of Iran said.
“There are only a handful of pharmaceutical companies manufacturing MPS medicine in the world, namely two American companies and one Korean. Sadly, under pressure from the US government, the Korean company can’t provide us with the medicine against its will,” Mohammad Reza Shanehsaz was also quoted as saying by ISNA.
Noting that over the past months, the Food and Drug Administration of Iran has been grappling with constant challenges regarding the supply of medicines, the official said MPS medicines will be made available, as some are held in reserve and patients can use substitutes [medicine that differs in composition but is considered to have similar pharmacological activity], Financial Tribune reported.
“Intergovernmental organizations need to take notice of US unethical behavior. It sheds crocodile tears for Iranian people but in actuality only thinks about annihilating our country and people,” he said.
“We have enough medicines for special diseases, such as MS, hemophilia and thalassemia at our disposal. In fact, substantial shares of these drugs are produced domestically whereas about 10-15 years ago, we had to import most of them.”
Noting that a German company that provided protective bandages for epidermolysis bullosa (EB) patients also held up supplies to Iran due to the US restrictions on banking relations, the official said the Iranian Red Crescent Society and other organizations have helped make these bandages available in Iran.
EB is a rare genetic condition that makes skin so fragile that it can tear or blister at the slightest touch. Children born with it are often called “Butterfly Children” because their skin seems as fragile as a butterfly wing.
Mild forms may get better with time, but severe cases can be painful, trigger other serious health issues and become life-threatening.
Complaint Letters to UN
Iran's Health Minister Saeed Namaki in separate letters to the United Nations chief and the heads of two of its affiliated organizations, namely the World Health Organization and the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) recently called on the international community to break the silence on the humanitarian crisis resulting from US unilateral sanctions against Iran.
In his letters to Secretary-General of the UN Antonio Guterres, the head of WHO, Tedros Adhanom, and the head of UNICEF, Henrietta H. Fore, Namaki said sanctions have severely impeded Iran's ability to import food, drugs and medical equipment, despite US claims that humanitarian goods are exempt from sanctions, IRNA reported.
"Innocent people have been the first to fall victim to such US measures," the minister said.
In practice, prohibitive measures against any transactions with Iran have scared away exporters of humanitarian goods to Iran.
"By sanctioning the Iranian nation, the United States has not only committed economic terrorism but also crimes against humanity," he said, noting that many patients are at risk amid the ongoing shortage of medicine in Iran.
Namaki said US sanctions have especially impeded the production of radiotherapy drugs for cancer, cobalt fuel, cyclotron, PET, Gamanayev and even wound care dressing for EB patients.
"Iran witnessed the silence of international community against the atrocities of Saddam Hussein when the former Iraqi regime used chemical weapons against the Iranians," he added, noting that he hopes history won't repeat itself this time.
"The UN officials ought to be responsible against violations of human rights and principles of world diplomacy as well as unilateralism," the Iranian minister concluded.
Namaki made similar remarks in his address to the opening ceremony of the 66th Session of WHO’s Regional Committee for the Eastern Mediterranean held in Tehran in October.
Managing Director of Rare Diseases Foundation of Iran Hamid Reza Adraki holds Washington responsible for the acute shortage of rare disease medicine caused by sanctions reimposed on the country.
"We have nearly one million patients grappling with some type of rare diseases in Iran," Adraki said.
"Unfortunately, the sanctions have indirectly affected the supply of drugs for these patients because we are facing problems in conducting financial transactions to supply the medicine needed for rare diseases."
President of Iran's Academy of Medical Sciences Alireza Marandi said the United States has endangered the lives of many Iranian patients by imposing "unjust" food and medicine sanctions on Iran.
"Despite the illegality of sanctioning food and medicine, the US government is preventing access to these vital resources and has therefore endangered the lives of many patients, ranging from small children to the elderly who are in urgent need of medicine and medical equipment," Marandi said in a letter to Guterres last year.
Pointing to the detrimental effects of sanctions on Iranian children suffering from cancer, he said, "The US sanctions policy on the Islamic Republic of Iran has been devised in such a way that it prevents all banking exchanges, including access to essential medicines and medical equipment that are now virtually impossible."
Marandi called on the UN to act against the United States' "incessant violation of human rights".
"When will the lives of children, women and men across the globe be protected from the criminal behavior of the United States? Until when should cancer, organ transplant and other patients fear death because they are deliberately denied medicine and medical equipment?" he asked.
The Iranian official criticized the deafening silence of international human rights organizations, especially the United Nations, over their indifference to the suffering of ordinary people illegally imposed by the US.
"This indifference will further discredit the United Nations in the eyes of people around the world," he said.
Marandi urged the UN to take "immediate and serious measures" against the US "criminal actions that are in defiance of all international conventions and norms".
Plan to Domestically Produce 135 Strategic Drugs
Iran recently announced plans to promote self-sufficiency with regard to medicine production, with the aim of producing 135 strategic pharmaceutical products domestically.
According to the Information Center of Iran’s National Elites Foundation, Iran's Vice President for Science and Technology Sorena Sattari said, “We have initiated the program of self-efficacy in drug production since last year. In this regard, 27 biological drugs, 50 chemical drugs and 58 raw materials that drain foreign currency will be created in Iran with the help of knowledge-based companies and startups.”
This could provide an alternative, cheaper means of production to the “foreign currency drain” of $570 million that the country spends currently on these products.
Sattari added: “One of the steps taken by the Vice Presidency for Science and Technology in support of domestic producers is the enforcement of customs duty exemptions. We aim to introduce effective exemptions to contribute to the development of companies and production of new and innovative products.”
Significant Progress in Health Sector
Over the past two decades, Iran has made significant progress in the health and medical sector, expanding both in market size and coverage. The ever-growing medical innovation ecosystem is supported by ongoing policy framework developments, incentives and regulatory bodies.
In addition, the emergence and development of the biopharma sector in Iran, which is a complex, high-tech sector, hosts several successful local export firms, according to the “Global Innovation Index 2019” report published by Cornell University, INSEAD and the World Intellectual Property Organization, in partnership with other organizations and institutions.
The evolving pro-innovation ecosystem of the health sector in Iran has achieved effective policy and regulatory synergies, and supports the supply- and demand-side of medical innovation. Demand-side innovation has paved the way for advanced endogenous medical innovations in Iran while, historically, conventional medical solutions were not easily accessible due to sanctions or affordability.
Iran’s improvement in health-related indicators has been consistent and promising. According to the Human Development Index, the mean years of life expectancy in Iran has increased dramatically from 51.1 in 1980 to 76.2 in 2018, an approximate 25-year increase over the past three decades.
From a science, technology and innovation perspective, Iran has boosted scientific production in areas such as nanotech, biotechnology, biomedical engineering, bioengineering, biomaterials and biophysics.
For instance, rankings have improved from either non-existent or around 60th position in the late 20th century to fourth in nanotech, 12th in biomedical engineering, ninth in bioengineering and eighth in biomaterials, in 2017.
In 2018, the National Medical Device Directorate reported that the Iranian medical equipment market was worth $2.5 billion, of which 30% belonged to over 1,000 domestic firms.
On a global scale, 56% of 500,000 medical equipment items available in the world market have Iranian counterparts. In pharmaceuticals, around 70% of Iran’s $4.5 billion market are domestic products and, in 2018, 97% of pharmaceuticals consumed in the country were manufactured locally.
In 2018, 67% of the active pharmaceutical ingredients used to produce drugs in Iran were made locally.