BEIRUT — Health Minister Firass Abiad announced Tuesday that “subsidies on drugs for chronic diseases will be partially lifted” but will remain in place on some medications, including those for cancer, dialysis and mental illnesses. Abiad, however, did not offer a specific list of the products affected.
Here’s what we know:
• Making the announcement following a meeting with the Parliamentary Health Committee, Abiad said, “We cannot lift subsidies on certain products, including drugs for cancer and incurable diseases, which started arriving in Lebanon last week after being out of stock for four months.”
• Since June, pharmacy shelves and hospitals had held scant supplies of medications for many health issues, including chronic illnesses. Many chronic diseases patients needing prescription drugs have found them all but impossible to find.
• Abiad did not indicate specific products that will be affected by the decision to remove subsidies, nor did he note the timeframe for when this measure would become effective; however, Parliamentary Health Committee head Assem Araji said that the ministry will later issue a list specifying the medications affected along with their prices.
• In June, Ghassan al-Amin, head of the pharmacists’ syndicate, said that the shortage of medical supplies, including medications, was due to Banque du Liban’s inability to process subsidy payments. At the time, the central bank blamed the shortages on the hoarding and smuggling of drugs imported to the country.
• Last July, the Health Ministry partially lifted subsidies on drugs priced below LL12,000 and those that can be found in primary health centers. Subsidies, however, were maintained on drugs for chronic, incurable, mental and nervous-system diseases.
• Small-scale initiatives have emerged at the community level during the crisis to fill the medicine supply gap and meet immediate needs through donations and funds from Lebanese and non-Lebanese living abroad.