DAMASCUS, Oct. 20 (Xinhua) -- Syria's deputy health minister denied the allegation that a severe medicine shortage has occurred in the country, saying that Syria has not reached "a dangerous stage" yet in this regard.
"We haven't reached a dangerous stage as we are still providing alternatives (of the imported medicines), ...and there is no such thing as a medicine crisis," Rajwa Joubaili said in a recent interview with Xinhua.
Despite the official's placation, a number of pharmacists have complained about a shortage in some much-needed imported medicine, which faces many hurdles to reach Syria due to the international sanctions.
They have also complained about a lack of local products due to the destruction done to many pharmaceutical factories, particularly in the northern city of Aleppo, where most of the laboratories are located.
Aleppo has been a main stage for incessant battles between the government troops and the armed rebels, who are trying to defeat the army there in hopes of establishing a de-facto capital.
Trying to downplay such complaints, Joubaili stressed that the health ministry has a long-time policy of having at least seven substitutes for each medicine in the market.
She pointed out that not all of the factories have stopped production in Aleppo, estimating the number of damaged laboratories to be three or four.
However, she noted the transportation of medicine out of Aleppo has become difficult due to the frequent armed attacks on the freights.
Commenting on the imported medicine problems, Joubaili admitted that the alternatives to such medicines cannot be quickly provided due to the need for a lot of paper works for the importers.
The official stressed that the health ministry is exerting lots of efforts to make important medicine available, particularly those for treating cancer patients.
She made it clear that the ministry has directed its efforts to sign deals with factories in friendly countries such as Russia, China and India among others to obtain crude materials for the pharmaceutical industry in Syria.
The European Union, along with the Arab League and the United States slapped Syria with several rafts of economic sanctions after the outburst of anti-government protests in the country.
Syria's economic indicators paint a grim picture. The economic decline has affected the currency and the Syrian pound has sharply depreciated against the U.S. dollar.
Though Syria is a self-sufficient country, the sanctions have brought almost all vital sectors in the country, including tourism and oil, to a standstill.
Syrian people are increasingly feeling the bite of the sanctions with prices of all commodities skyrocketing and businesses dipping. Only the prices of pharmaceuticals remained steady as they were heavily subsidized by the government.
Moreover, the government repeatedly intervened in the commercial sector and subsidized prices of food items and gasoline, and the central bank made vigorous efforts to support the value of the Syrian pound against the U.S. dollar.