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Patients left without medicine amid Turkey’s economic woes

Turkey's economic turmoil, coupled with restrictive government regulations, has led pharmaceutical companies to curb supplies, with 20% of patients returning empty-handed from drugstores, according to sector representatives.
People shop in a pharmacy that did not participate in a  protest in Ankara December 4, 2009. Pharmacies shut down all over Turkey on Friday for one day to protest price discounts on drugs enforced by the government. REUTERS/Umit Bektas (TURKEY POLITICS HEALTH CONFLICT) - GM1E5C41P5H01

The pharmaceutical sector is the latest field where Turkey’s economic crisis is producing alarming consequences. The severe depreciation of the Turkish lira last year and the corresponding increase in foreign exchange prices have led companies to curb supply, with 20% of patients said to be returning empty-handed from drugstores.

Medicine shortages have plagued Turkey for the past three years. It is a serious crisis that is related to Ankara’s policies and regulations in the sector, which relies heavily on imports. In 2004, the Ministry of Health amended pricing regulations, indexing prices to a fixed lira-euro exchange rate. At the beginning of 2018, when a euro was worth 3 liras, the rate was fixed at 2.69 liras for the year. Yet, following the currency turmoil that shook the country in the ensuing months, the price of the euro stands at about 5.95 liras today. The huge gap between the market price and the fixed rate for the pharmaceutical sector has led companies to cut back or halt supplies, fueling an extraordinary crisis that stands out among crises bruising other sectors of the economy.

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