Weakened Turkish lira hits pharmacies, drug supplies in Turkey

Patients are finding it increasingly difficult to acquire drugs in the marketplace due to a currency crisis in Turkey, Nurten Saydan, the head of the Employer Pharmacists Association (TEİS), has said, according to a report by the Hürriyet Daily News.

The Turkish lira has weakened sharply against major currencies, including the US dollar and the euro, over the past year. Saydan warned that unless the government improves its currency rate against the euro by the end of the year, certain drugs such as painkillers, influenza vaccines, blood pressure medication, eyedrops and COPD (Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) and diabetes drugs may be off the shelves.

The government led by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan sets a certain euro/Turkish lira rate and makes payments to drug companies based on this specific rate that may differ from the market exchange rate.

“Turkey has allowed in a large number of migrants over the past couple of years which has adversely affected the immune systems of the people living in the country. Thus, vaccines have become more important than ever,” Saydan told the Hürriyet Daily News.

“However, influenza vaccines are not produced domestically but imported. There is not enough of a supply to meet demand in the event of a flu epidemic. People with chronic diseases may face serious risks in the period ahead,” she added.

“People are coming to pharmacies with influenza vaccine prescriptions to protect themselves before the epidemic strikes, but we are having problems supplying those vaccines,” she said.

She noted that drug consumption varies between Turkey’s regions, even among cities. According to Saydan, some drugs that cannot be found in some cities are available in others and a law allows pharmacists to swap drugs. This regulation, however, does not allow swaps between pharmacies operating in the same city.

“Even if the pharmacies are located next to each other, pharmacists cannot exchange drugs,” she complained, urging authorities to cancel this regulation in order to prevent a serious drug shortage at the end of the year.

Saydan said pharmacists have suffered most from the weakening of the lira. “The exchange rates set by the government to purchase drugs are not realistic, and this policy and other wider economic problems hit pharmacies. In December, the price of 404 items will be reduced by up to 76 percent. This will be yet another blow to drug supplies,” Saydan said.

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