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Lebanon Faces Medicine Shortages, Stocks Won’t Last More than a Month

Lebanon Faces Medicine Shortages, Stocks Won’t Last More than a Month

Sunday, 20 September, 2020 - 10:30
A man counts US dollar banknotes next to Lebanese pounds at a currency exchange shop in Beirut, Lebanon April 24, 2020. (Reuters)

Since March, the Lebanese have been suffering from the shortage of a number of medicines, especially those for chronic diseases, for intermittent periods that used to reach 15 days.

Today, obtaining some medications requires a tour of a number of pharmacies and promises to secure them after periods that may exceed a month.

“This is due to some citizens resorting to stockpiling medicine for fear of interruption or increase of prices in the event that Lebanon’s Central Bank stops subsidizing this sector,” Mahdi, the manager of a pharmacy in Beirut, told Asharq Al-Awsat.

The Central Bank, which provides credit lines to importers of wheat, fuel and medicine, at the official dollar rate, which is still fixed at LBP 1,515, announced that at the end of 2020, it would no longer be able to continue to subsidize these materials in light of the shrinking reserves of foreign currencies.

Mahdi asserts that in June and July, many customers “have sought to buy stocks for a whole year.”

Some pharmacies “used to provide the patient with the quantities he requested, but the distributing companies recently determined the quantities that they give to each pharmacy based on its usual monthly need,” he noted.

The head of the Pharmacists Syndicate, Ghassan Al-Amin, told Asharq Al-Awsat that the panic caused by the Central Bank’s announcement of its inability to continue subsidizing fuel, wheat and medicine after the end of 2020 prompted the Lebanese to stockpile medications, especially since they know that lifting the subsidy means that the drug price will be linked to the dollar valuation in the black market.

The prices will increase by five, based on the current dollar exchange rate in the black market, according to Al-Amin.

He noted that the problem further worsened “with the slow import movement due to the Central Bank’s mechanism to open credit lines for importers based on the official exchange rate.”

Al-Amin stressed that the stock of medicine in warehouses, which used to last for six months, is now insufficient for more than one and a half months, warning of a real disaster that will affect the citizens after the subsidy is lifted.

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