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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs

IRAQ: Crackdown on unauthorised sale of medicines

BAGHDAD, 30 March 2005 (IRIN) - Health officials in Baghdad are increasingly concerned over the cut-price, unregulated sale of medicines, some of which are out of date and potentially dangerous.

Drugs such as flu and headache pills, antibiotics and tablets to control blood pressure, diabetes and rheumatism are commonly sold on the streets of the capital by people unqualified to prescribe them.

"It is true I do not have diploma in medicine, but I learned the description of medicines and their names and can sell them easily," Muhssin Alwan, a 44-year-old local vender, told IRIN.

"People like to buy from us because we are cheaper than the pharmacy. I have chronic disease medicine too, but I sell it only to people I know," Saheb Hameed told IRIN.

"I mainly sell antibiotics and headache pills. My business is good because people need medicine all the time," he continued.

But questions continue over the safety of such trade.

"Medicines must be taken under medical supervision. They should be prescribed by authorised pharmacies, and buying medicines from these peddlers could cause side effects like poisoning due to poor storage or because they may have expired," Dr Muhsin Ali, a doctor at the al-Kindi hospital in the capital, told IRIN

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the availability of medicine in Iraq remains a key health issue in the country, with many essential medicines still missing due to insecurity, smuggling problems, or delays in delivery to the distribution centres.

Saheb told IRIN that he got the medicine he sells from people working in government hospitals who allegedly smuggle drugs from the hospital pharmacy in return for money and sell them for half the price of the private pharmacies.

Meanwhile, officials at the Ministry of Health (MoH) say they have formed a special committee to deal with the problem.
The committee is keeping a watchful eye over areas in the capital like the local markets in al-Baya'a district and Dakliah, west of Baghdad, to monitor the situation.

"Twenty people have already been caught and sent to court and a quantity of medicine was seized and destroyed," MoH official Hadi Hassin told IRIN.

Yet local pharmacies continue to feel the brunt of the illegal trade. "Our work is being affected by these peddlers, especially in local places like new Baghdad and east gate, because of their cheap prices. However, some people still prefer to get their medicines from the pharmacies to avoid expired medicines," Haider Saleh, a local pharmacist told IRIN.

Theme(s): (IRIN) Governance, (IRIN) Health & Nutrition

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This material comes to you via IRIN, a UN humanitarian information unit, but may not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations or its agencies. If you re-print, copy, archive or re-post this item, please retain this credit and disclaimer. Quotations or extracts should include attribution to the original sources. All materials copyright © UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs 2005



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