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  • Food, medicine and other humanitarian supplies are supposed to be exempt from the sanctions.

    Food, medicine and other humanitarian supplies are supposed to be exempt from the sanctions. | Photo: Reuters

Published 29 October 2019
Opinion

Among the most affected are people with rare diseases or conditions that require specific treatment.

Despite exemptions for imports of humanitarian goods, the United States' sanctions against Iran are threatening Iranians’ access to foreign-made drugs and medical equipment to treat severe diseases such as cancer and epilepsy, a report from Human Rights Watch revealed Tuesday.

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“There’s no acute nationwide shortage of medicine in Iran at this point,” Tara Sepehri Far, a researcher at Human Rights Watch and an author of the report, said at the Atlantic Council think tank in Washington. “But people who are suffering from rare and special diseases are already seeing the negative effect of sanctions.”

If the situation does not change, “we expect the harm to be even greater,” the researcher added.

The report found that the sanctions are causing unnecessary suffering to many of the country’s citizens.

Among the most affected are people with rare diseases or conditions that require specialized treatment previously available. The lack of these medicines is now leading to possibly catastrophic consequences for these patients.

Iran’s MAHAK Pediatric Cancer Treatment & Research Center lacked three key chemotherapy drugs - pegaspargase, mercaptopurine, and vinblastine - in May, according to the report.

While hundreds of people who have epidermolysis bullosa, or EB, a type of disease that causes fragile, blistering skin, had difficulty accessing medicine after the sanctions were imposed.

Food, medicine and other humanitarian supplies are supposed to be exempt from the sanctions that Washington reimposed last year after President Donald Trump decided to leave a 2015 international deal over Iran’s nuclear program. However, the measures targeting everything from oil sales to shipping and financial activities have deterred several banks and foreign companies from engaging in any king of business with the Persian country, including humanitarian deals, and the imports of basic food.

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