Iran produces 95% of its medicine that its patients need. That sounds really good, right? It is very good and most likely one of the highest indigenization programs in the world. But, there is a big but. What happens when you can't access the remaining 5%?
If it were any other industry 5% would be meaningless; but for a patient that has a certain heart condition and only this one medicine will allow the patient to live, being a part of the 5% means life or death.
In mid-November last year the first casualty of the sanctions on Iran was Manouchehr Esmaili-Liousi. Manouchehr was a 15-year-old from a nomadic tribe near the city of Dezful. He died in the hospital after the hemophilia medication that is produced in Europe and the US was not able to be given to him in time to save his life.
Although there are no official sanctions against medicine reaching Iran, the US government has created an environment where every product being imported into Iran is sanctioned. Through banning all financial dealings with Iran, blackmailing banks that have in the past transferred money to and from Iran, and fining foreign banks billions of dollars when found that they had transferred funds, the US government is pressuring the Iranian people to push for a revolt as they see their children and family members start to die.
When asked, the US State Department only says that export of medicine and other humanitarian goods are specifically exempted from the sanctions.
Muhammad Sahimi, an Iranian political analyst and engineering professor at the University of Southern California, was quoted by the BBC as best explaining this situation, "There is not a proper channel through which they can pay, unless they send somebody to Pfizer with a suitcase full of cash." John Sullivan, a US spokesman, had this to say in a written statement: "If there is in fact a shortage of some medicines in Iran, it is due to choices made by the Iranian government, not the US government."
So the reality is that very little is now getting into Iran and the US government only says, as they have always said, we are not to blame; we are not sanctioning medicine; we have no restrictions on humanitarian supplies.
Yesterday, a new revelation came out to this saga, apart from scaring off all banks and suppliers that they will be treated like lepers if they work with Iran; now the US government is indeed targeting for the first time actual medical companies for selling their products to Iran.
Europe's biggest drug-maker, Novartis, has said that its Alcon eye-care unit is under U.S. government investigation related to the export of products to Iran for trade sanctions.