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Iran blames low imports, smuggling for shortage of insulin pens

Iran says low imports and smuggling are main causes of a recent shortage of insulin pens.

Iranian health authorities say lower imports and a heavy subsidy system which has spurred smuggling of drugs out of the country are to blame for a recent shortage of insulin pens.

A senior official from Iran’s Food and Drug Organization said on Sunday that demand for foreign-made insulin pens have increased in the country despite efforts underway to substantially increase the local production of the drug.

Heidar Mohammadi told the semi-official Tasnim news agency that supplies of imported insulin pens or those manufactured inside Iran have also ended up in the hands of traffickers who basically benefit from huge difference in the price of the drug in Iran and in neighboring countries.

“We have no shortage of insulin but there is a shortage of foreign-made insulin pens,” said Mohammadi, adding, “We have abundant supplies of regular and NPH (Neutral Protamine Hagedorn) insulin and people can use them.”

The comments came a day after Iranian health minister supervised the launch of a major insulin production plant near Tehran.

The factory, owned and operated by Danish company Novo Nordisk, is set to reach a monthly output of 800,000 insulin pens.

Generic medicines are heavily subsidized in Iran and the government keeps spending billions of dollar each year on local production as well imports of various drugs.

Imported drugs that have locally produced versions should pay up to 60 percent in taxes but others enjoy government support and some key medicines are still imported at a government-mandated price of 42,000 for the rial against US dollar, far lower than a current market price of 310,000 for the greenback.

Authorities on Saturday denied reports that some 19 truckloads of smuggled medicines confiscated in neighboring Iraq had been manufactured in Iran, saying the supplies had transited through Iran to the Arab country.

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