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At least 40% of Afghanistan's medicine imported illegally, union claims

Published on 06/10/17 at 09:49am

New damning allegations have arisen concerning Afghanistan’s pharmaceutical industry, as the Medicine Importers Union claims that at least 40% of the nation’s drug products are imported illegally.

Beyond the shocking figure, it is reported that a significant percentage of drugs in the country are of sub-par quality. The total sales of products imported into the country legitimately are estimated to be worth $700 million annually.

The union also asserts that the Afghan government is involved in the import of this low-quality medicine, with Abdul Khaliq Zazai Watandost, head of the union, stating: “There is a big circle of medicine mafia who are dominating the government contracts and ministries for many years.”

These circumstances are enabled and compounded by the fact that there is only one medicine quality control laboratory in the entire country, according to the Ministry of Public Health.

“Medicines in the country are bad quality. A UNDP official purchased pills from the market, but he remained at hospital for two years and suffered much pain. What do you think? What would be the situation of other people?” said President Ashraf Ghani in a speech on the subject. “A circle of evil has contracts with the medics and medical stores and they supply them with low-quality medicines – this situation has to change.”

Data from the Ministry of Public Health indicates that Afghan citizens spent $300 million or more outside of the country on medical treatments, with 90% of these patients seeking treatment for heart disease. Conversely to other countries in the region, Afghanistan has seen a rise in the prevalence of preventable diseases including diarrhoea and respiratory disease in the past years.

Waheed Majroh, spokesman for the Public Health Ministry, added: “The Ministry of Public Health is a leading institution in the anti-corruption campaign and we have good achievements in this respect. But this sector is still prone to a widespread corruption.”

Matt Fellows

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