Hundreds of drugs, newborn formula, and chronic and incurable drugs would run out in a few weeks, bringing a new tragedy to the Lebanese, as predicted by the Head of the Syndicate of Pharmaceutical Importers, Karim Gebara. The buildup of debts owing to suppliers abroad, who can no longer afford late payments, has resulted in such a disaster.
“The debts of international companies amount to 600 million dollars, which exemplifies between 6 and 7 months of Lebanon’s medicine consumption,” Gebara said. “This indicates that we haven’t paid for anything we’ve bought recently, from December 2020 till present, and no one owes Lebanon any more money except pharmaceutical corporations; would we diminish them by defaulting to pay their dues?”
Despite attempts by importers to control spending at the request of the Ministry of Health and to confine the quantities delivered to the market in normal quantities for the patients’ needs, the quantity of drugs for chronic diseases and common illness provided to pharmacies has continued to rise since early 2020, and the cumulative increase has reached between 30 and 40% within two years. Following the increase, countless patients couldn’t find their necessities in pharmacies, according to Gebara. “Two measures are needed to ensure medicine swiftly: first, to settle debts to international companies; second, to issue prior approvals and clarify (the link) between the Ministry of Health and the Banque du Liban, and the two herein mentioned measures can be taken within days, in order for drugs to be supplied,” Gebara explained.
Lebanon, on the other hand, is dressing up for a date with July’s health disaster. Is it feasible to avert this disaster, or will drug shortage draw lines and huge queues at pharmacies?