| 14 April 2024, Sunday |

Medicines shortage forces Lebanese to buy basic drugs from Turkey

A severe scarcity of pharmaceuticals has obliged many Lebanese to travel to Turkey to stock up on vital drugs for family and friends, health experts have revealed.

The country’s stifling economic and financial meltdown have left pharmacies struggling to obtain even the most basic products used to help treat a range of conditions.

The government’s recent decision to halt subsidizing medicines has reportedly resulted in racketeers stockpiling drugs to sell on at inflated prices.

Ahmad Musbah, 80, recently returned to Lebanon after a week-long trip to Turkey to purchase more than three dozen packets of medicine for relatives.

He told Arab News: “I bought my own medications that have been missing for over three months. Meanwhile, when relatives knew I was in Istanbul, they asked me to buy them medicines too. The shortages are dramatic and unbearable.”

The retiree said he had visited eight Turkish pharmacies and in each met two or three fellow Lebanese visitors buying medicine.

Business manager Najah Ahmad said, “for some time she had been asking friends traveling to Turkey to buy medicine for her sick parents due to their unavailability in Beirut.”

“I know at least 10 people who’ve been doing the same for four months and coworkers who have also been doing so since pharmacies started running out of stock,” she added.

A recent report by aid agency ACT Alliance showed the pharmaceutical crisis in Lebanon have worsened since the country’s Central Bank became unable to meet the costs of subsidized medicines.

One 46-year-old freelancer, said his luggage had been half-filled with 120 packets of different medication worth more than $500 on his return to Beirut from Istanbul.

Businesswoman Hala Walid said she had made three trips to Istanbul in the past two months to purchase medical supplies.
“Every visit I buy loads of medication for friends knowing how scarce it has become. One cannot even find simple medicines such as paracetamol, aspirin, Flagyl, or Nexium at Lebanese pharmacies,” she added.

Istanbul pharmacist Kamal Eyup said around five or six Lebanese clients visited his shop on an hourly basis.

“It’s a highly noticeable trend. This is seriously heartbreaking, and I have clients who have cried before me when they discovered that their requests (for drugs) were available,” he added.

One Lebanese woman, who gave her name as Salam, who was visiting a pharmacy in the Taksim area of Istanbul, blamed the Lebanese government and “greedy monopolists” for the situation.

  • Arab News