Medicine Shortages in Myanmar as Junta Controls US Dollar

By The Irrawaddy 27 July 2022

The Myanmar regime’s foreign currency restrictions are being blamed for increasing medicinal shortages.

The regime last week told pharmaceutical importers that they will only receive an import license if they buy US dollars at the official rate as drug prices rise and stocks decline.

Traders are suffering as their US dollar earnings are converted to kyats at 1,850 per dollar at the rate set by the junta-controlled Central Bank of Myanmar in April. But they have to pay around 2,500 kyats per dollar on the market.

“Importers are making losses due to the regime’s policy. It means the price of medicines will continue to rise,” said a distributor.

Prices have increased up to 25 percent this month. Medicines for chronic diseases like high blood pressure, coronary heart disease, antibiotics for lung problems and diabetes are now unavailable in Yangon.

Even the private hospitals have run out of some drugs, a North Dagon Township resident told The Irrawaddy.

“My doctor told me to buy medicines for two months but the pharmacy can only sell for one week,” she said.

Most other pharmacies are out of stock, she said.

A hepatitis B sufferer said medicine prices had doubled by June.

“If I don’t take it every day, I might get liver cancer. However, I ‌am not worried about the shortage. It is better to die than to deal with the problems in the country,” said the resident.

Biogesic and decolgen prices have risen from 30 to 60 percent, according to a pharmacist.

Covid cases are also rising and the junta-controlled Ministry of Health announced 83 new patients between July 23 to 26, up from 43 before July 23. The Irrawaddy could not independently verify the numbers.

COVID-19 might become more serious than last year due to medicine shortages, a general practitioner in Yangon told The Irrawaddy.

Last July panic buying of medicines increased prices during a coronavirus outbreak but prices fell rapidly afterward.

Pharmacists predict this year’s shortages will be a long-term trend because of the junta’s dollar controls.

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