VIDEO - IRAQ, BAGHDAD - Tales of tainted merchandise, non-existent oversight, and government extortion may seem like headlines from sensationalist western media, but these are also just some of the problems facing pharmacists in Iraq today. Though the central government has taken steps to restore order to the pharmaceutical industry, a myriad of a problems remain for pharmacists, not to mention the patients themselves.
Though it functioned effectively even through crushing UN sanctions, the toppling of Saddam Hussein and the security vaccum immediately after in 2003 proved too much for Iraq’s Ministry of Health. It’s ability to regulate the pharmaceutical industry collapsed and as a result Iraq was flooded with black market and counterfeit medications. The Ministry also lost its ability to regulate licensing of
pharmacists, effectively nullifying the line between esteemed
tradesmen and common drug dealers.
Most of the countefeit and substandard drugs in Iraq came from
smugglers bringing in black market product from Iran and China. No
longer required, or rather forced, to undergo rigorous testing by the
Ministry of Health, these counterfeit drugs at best had no effect at
all and at worst could cause serious harm. The black markets stretch into every conceivable pharmaceutical niche, from Viagra to
anti-depressents, even skin care products.There is also no regulation of licensing of pharmacists, so Iraqi patients often have no idea if their pharmacist, or his products, are legitimate.
Lately the Ministry of Health has been attempting to extend its
oversight once again, but the program is still rife with problems.
While the government has been using the Iraqi Army and National Guard to crack down on fraudulent pharmacies, often corrupt soldiers will simply burglarize the business rather than shut down its operations. Even legitimate pharmacists are at risk of this kind of racketeering, often seeing their shops raided and robbed by the very police tasked with regulation. Cell phones and electronics, not counterfeit medications and drug dealers, are more often than not the target of these raids.
In this episode of Alive in Baghdad we talk to some of these Iraqi
pharmacists who have endured Police raids and a regulation vaccum all in the honorable pursuit of their tradecraft, bringing medicine and medical care to all those in Iraq who need it.