SANA’A, May 15 — Just as many other industries have been affected by Yemen’s ongoing political and economic turmoil, the market for medicines has also taken a hit.
The Yemen Times has learnt that the smuggling of medicines into the country is more active than ever, as some drugs are no longer being imported. Some drug companies have stopped selling their products because they can’t be sure Yemeni pharmacy owners will be able to pay them back. Others have raised the prices of their drugs by up to 10 percent, or have shut down their Yemen offices completely, resulting in a loss of jobs and income.
According to one pharmacy employee, “[Pharmacies] nowadays can’t cover the expense of drugs coming into Yemen. We need to pay upfront or make bank guarantees first.”
Maher Hadi, a pharmacist, said that the whole country is facing a crisis – of which the shortage of medicines is only a part – and that things will soon reach their worst if the situation doesn’t improve quickly.
“Some drugs are no longer imported, but we always have alternatives,” explained Hadi. “The real problem that will affect citizens is the raising of drug prices.”
The halting of certain pharmaceutical imports strengthens the black market trade in poor-quality medicines.
According to pharmacist Mohammed Shaman, “Important drugs are no longer on the market, like medicines for heart disease. They can, however, be smuggled, which is extremely dangerous because these medicines must be transported under very precise environmental conditions. They should be saved at a certain temperature. But when they’re smuggled, they’re often exposed to the sun. Moreover, when the drug takes two weeks to arrive via the desert, it may have lost its effect – or indeed, its lifesaving effect may have been reversed.”
Shaman also said that some smuggled drugs are in fact fake, with one medicine being passed off as another.
“Someone might sell a citrine drug when its content is actually something else,” he explained. “I can recognize when this is the case if I normally sell a drug for YR 15,000 and someone else sells it for YR 4,000.”
Shaman also said that rising pharmaceutical prices will be the biggest problem for Yemenis during this crisis. Indeed, some injections are already too expensive for the average Yemeni to buy.
“The Ministry of Health should force the companies not to raise their drugs’ prices,” concluded Shaman.