Iraj Harirchi speaking in a television program said a 50-cent medication is relabeled as remdesivir and sold at 1,300 to 1,600 U.S. dollars on the black market.
The prices quoted by the deputy minister correspond with prices in the West, but per-capita income in Iran is far below industrial countries.
Rendesivir is an antiviral drug approved to be used in severe cases of COVID-19 in many countries. It is believed to help shorten the duration of COVID illness, but it also has many side effects.
The medication market is regulated in Iran and often subsidized by the government. As a result, some medicines are hard to find and obtainable through the black market.
Harirchi, who was himself one of the early victims of the coronavirus, did not say what the government has done to prevent the misrepresentation of a cheap drug as remdesivir but he apologized to the public, saying his ministry bears responsibility.
He also warned that the coronavirus pandemic will get much worse in the fall and winter compared to spring and summer. Iran was the second hotspot after China.
The epidemic began in February in Iran’s religious city Qom, where hundreds of Chinese seminary student were living. Some say their travels back and forth to China carried the virus into Iran.
In recent weeks, Iran’s health ministry has been sounding warnings about the unabetted pace of the pandemic in Iran, while the government has rushed into reopening the economy, which has led to a second wave of infections.
So far there have been more than 250,000 cases and close to 12,500 deaths, while many say these official numbers do not reflect the real figures.
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