Skip to main content

Drug shortage adds to Tunisia’s woes

In light of the successive crises facing Tunisians, pharmacies across the country are suffering drug shortages, which the authorities are unable to resolve.
A nurse shows a vial of the Russian Sputnik V vaccine against the coronavirus at a hospital at the start of a vaccination program, Tunis, Tunisia, March 13, 2021.

TUNIS, Tunisia — A drug crisis has hit Tunisia in recent weeks, exacerbated by a strike by medicine distributors, after many international pharmaceutical companies shut down their offices in the North African country.

“I can barely find any of my medicines, all of which I cannot dispense with since they control my blood disease and other illnesses I have,” said Mariam al-Jubari, 68, from Ben Arous governorate in the northeast.

She told Al-Monitor, “The sole victims are the Tunisian citizens. The government is unable to take action and solve the problem of medicines, as well as other problems that suffocate us on a daily basis.”

On Dec. 3, medicine distributors in Tunisia announced a general strike, arguing that the authorities did not reduce tax burdens on their institutions, which are facing severe financial crises.

Nawfal al-Amiri, head of the Tunisian Pharmacists' Syndicate, told Al-Monitor, “The [drug] crisis will worsen in the coming days because the country is facing near bankruptcy. The authorities are unable to finance the pharmaceutical sector.”

He added, “There is also no government program to reform the pharmaceutical sector, while many international pharmaceutical companies are planning to leave the country.”

Tunisian pharmacies complain of a shortage of medicines for chronic diseases such as diabetes and blood pressure, which raised fears of the crisis worsening even more.

“About 300 essential medicines can no longer be found in Tunisian pharmacies,” Amiri said.

Tunisia has been experiencing a severe economic crisis amid political turmoil due to the power struggle between President Kais Saied and the opposition forces over Saied’s controversial measures, including dissolving the parliament and government. 

On Oct. 15, Tunisia reached a preliminary agreement with the International Monetary Fund for a $1.9 billion financing package. However, it remains unclear whether this loan will prompt a quick solution to the drug crisis that is sparking growing discontent in the street a few days ahead of the parliamentary elections.

In light of the drug crisis, Saied stressed during a visit to a pharmaceutical company Dec. 6, “Tunisia does not lack anything to meet its needs for medicines in anticipation of all emergency cases.”

He also called for unifying efforts to provide a strategic stock of medicines.

Rafik Boujdaria, head of the coronavirus clinic at Abderrahman Mami Hospital in Aryanah, northwest of Tunis, told Al-Monitor that the solution to the drug crisis lies in pumping government funds into the Central Pharmacy of Tunisia in charge of supplying private pharmacies and hospitals with medicines, which is facing a financial crisis as it is unable to cover its insurance dues.

Boujdaria said, “In 2018, the previous Tunisian government headed by Youssef Chahed was forced to pump money into the Central Pharmacy. This is the only solution today as well to overcome this crisis.”

Join hundreds of Middle East professionals with Al-Monitor PRO.

Business and policy professionals use PRO to monitor the regional economy and improve their reports, memos and presentations. Try it for free and cancel anytime.

Already a Member? Sign in


The Middle East's Best Newsletters

Join over 50,000 readers who access our journalists dedicated newsletters, covering the top political, security, business and tech issues across the region each week.
Delivered straight to your inbox.


What's included:
Our Expertise

Free newsletters available:

  • The Takeaway & Week in Review
  • Middle East Minute (AM)
  • Daily Briefing (PM)
  • Business & Tech Briefing
  • Security Briefing
  • Gulf Briefing
  • Israel Briefing
  • Palestine Briefing
  • Turkey Briefing
  • Iraq Briefing

Premium Membership

Join the Middle East's most notable experts for premium memos, trend reports, live video Q&A, and intimate in-person events, each detailing exclusive insights on business and geopolitical trends shaping the region.

$25.00 / month
billed annually

Become Member Start with 1-week free trial
What's included:
Our Expertise AI-driven

Memos - premium analytical writing: actionable insights on markets and geopolitics.

Live Video Q&A - Hear from our top journalists and regional experts.

Special Events - Intimate in-person events with business & political VIPs.

Trend Reports - Deep dive analysis on market updates.

Text Alerts - Be the first to get breaking news, exclusives, and PRO content.

All premium Industry Newsletters - Monitor the Middle East's most important industries. Prioritize your target industries for weekly review:

  • Capital Markets & Private Equity
  • Venture Capital & Startups
  • Green Energy
  • Supply Chain
  • Sustainable Development
  • Leading Edge Technology
  • Oil & Gas
  • Real Estate & Construction
  • Banking

We also offer team plans. Please send an email to and we'll onboard your team.

Already a Member? Sign in

Start your PRO membership today.

Join the Middle East's top business and policy professionals to access exclusive PRO insights today.

Join Al-Monitor PRO Start with 1-week free trial