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Health Ministry cracks down on illegal medicines

[Iraq] Woman sells stolen medicines in Basrah market.
Medicines are for sale everywhere in Basra - mostly looted from government hospitals (IRIN)

Iraq's Health Ministry is leading a crackdown on expired and illegally imported medicines which have flooded the Iraqi market since the US-led invasion in 2003, a senior health official said on 19 August.

"The Ministry is leading a huge project to monitor the mechanism of importing medicines to Iraq, after we found that about 70 percent of the drugs in Iraqi markets have either been imported illegally or have expired," said Adil Muhsin, the Health Ministry's inspector-general.

About 100 samples of imported medicines were tested recently by the ministry; some were found to be unfit for consumption as they contained poisonous substances, Muhsin said.

"Some of these medicines cannot even be used in their countries of origin as they are only manufactured for Iraq," Muhsin told IRIN.

"We've formed a committee - with representatives from the ministries of the interior, defence and national security - to hunt down unregistered pharmacies and street vendors [of medicines]," he said.

Muhsin said the expired medicines can cause serious illnesses to those who take them, including stomach and intestinal illnesses, internal bleeding or kidney failure.

Muhsin blamed corruption at the Iraqi border for the availability of the medicines, saying the government had now designated only six border points through which medicines can be imported.

“There will be specialist teams with modern equipment at these border points to check all medicines and we plan to put an end to this phenomenon by 1 September," he said.

On 18 August, Muhsin said Iraqi security forces had confiscated "tonnes" of medicines of unknown origin during a military operation in Diyala Province, northeast of Baghdad.


This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information:

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