Iran’s surgeons struggle to cope as sanctions hamper drug supplies

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Operating theatres in Iran are running out of anesthetics due to international sanctions, reported The Guardian on Monday.

Doctors and pharmacists across the country are warning that hospitals are facing difficulties in procuring the drugs that are commonly used in life-saving surgeries.

“Drugs such as Atracurium, Isoflurane and Sevoflurane are either not available in the market or are very scarce,” stated Kheirollah Gholami, a pharmacist from the Tehran University of Medical Sciences.

“If these drugs are not supplied, our operating theatres will have to close,” he said, according to the semi-official Ilna news agency. “You can’t just use a hammer to make patients become unconscious... If you don’t have anesthetics, patients in need of operations may simply die.”

His colleagues are similarly concerned.

“Despite repeated warnings, the officials are yet to wake up and face the problem,” said Mohammad-Mehdi Ghiyamat, the head of the Iranian society of anesthesiology and critical care.

“It’s the people and patients who pay the price for the difficulties.”

Medical professionals have begun to turn away from modern solutions and focus on “old drugs” instead, it is not clear whether this is a reference to expired medicine or simply traditional types of anesthetics no longer in use.

The current medical crisis has been precipitated by trade sanctions that limit Iran’s access to the global market, in addition to these severe banking restrictions have been put in place and the country has experienced the plummeting value of its currency.

There are various conflicting views on whether government incompetence or international sanctions are to blame for the lack in medical supplies that potentially affects hundreds of thousands of Iranians. Inadequate supplies especially affect patients suffering from hemophilia, multiple sclerosis and cancer.

U.N. begins to worry

A U.N. special rapporteur Ahmed Shaheed has expressed concerns about the “the potentially negative humanitarian effect of general economic sanctions,” he called on the countries behind the punitive measures to make sure that “humanitarian exemptions are effectively serving their intended purpose.”