Economic sanctions like those now in place for Iran are intended to put pressure on a national government by making things tough for businesses. The sanctions now in place by the U.S. and European Union restrict sales to Iran of just about everything, except medical items and food, which are permitted though a case-by-case basis permitting process. Unfortunately, the permitting process is so slow that as many as 6-million Iranians now are not receiving needed medicines. Many of those affected are cancer patients. As reported in Al Jazeera, The New York Times, and elsewhere, efforts are now underway to correct what has recently been recognized as a public health crisis in Iran, largely resulting from U.S. actions. The news of Iranian suffering is further escalating anti-American sentiment.
In “Iran Sanctions Take Unexpected Toll on Medical Imports,” Thomas Erdbrink writes, “Sitting on one of the many crowded benches in the waiting room of the International Red Crescent’s pharmacy in central Tehran, Ali, 26, was working his phone. After nearly six weeks of chasing down batches of Herceptin, an American-made cancer medicine, Ali, an engineer, was wearing out his welcome with friends and relatives in other Iranian cities, who had done all they could to rustle up the increasingly elusive drug. At home his mother waited, bald and frail after chemotherapy for her breast cancer, but Herceptin had disappeared from pharmacies and hospitals in the capital.”
While the U.S. and other nations are moving to loosen controls on needed medical supplies, worries persist that the actions won’t be timely or sufficient enough to head off widespread suffering and death. As the New York Times coverage adds, “Herceptin, like many other Western-made medicines, has become increasingly hard to obtain in Iran as a result of the American-led sanctions meant to force Iran to stop enriching uranium, a critical element in what the United States says is a nuclear weapons program. Iranian doctors, patients and officials say that, in particular, a ban on financial transactions is so effective that even medicines and other critical supplies that are exempted from the sanctions for humanitarian reasons are no longer exported to the Islamic Republic. The trade measures have led to widespread shortfalls of imported goods and a plunge in the value of the national currency, the rial. On Friday, when Iranians celebrated the annual ‘Day of Fighting the Global Arrogance,’ a k a the United States, student demonstrators in Tehran carrying an effigy of President Obama handed out fliers denouncing the sanctions. Officials here estimate that potentially about six million patients, many of them with cancer, are affected by the shortages. For Iran’s sick, it amounts to life on what feels like the front lines of a battle between governments.”