Penicillin shortage takes toll on ill Egyptians

A shortage of penicillin on the local market is making it hard for many critically ill Egyptians to get the treatment they need, industry experts and patients say.

Cairo and other governorates are suffering from severe shortages of both locally and internationally produced penicillin, according to pharmacist Ayman Bakhit, who also said seven penicillin alternatives have also disappeared from the market as well as certain heart medications. 

Sayyed Ahmed told Al-Masry Al-Youm that his wife has suffered from rheumatic fever for 10 years and depends entirely on the penicillin she is supposed to take to allow her to get out of bed.

Some are coming to Cairo from smaller cities and towns to search for the drug.

Bakhit said the penicillin shortage is not new, but has worsened recently due to the lack of market regulation. The government can no longer afford subsidies for some expensive drugs, which is compounded by the shortage of raw, imported materials that local companies use to replicate certain drugs, he added.

Abdel Nasser Zenhom, whose daughter takes penicillin twice a month, said he cannot afford the alternative medicine he found that costs LE40 per dose.

Makram Mehanna, chairman of the Chamber of the Pharmaceutical Industry, said reforms have prompted some companies to suspend penicillin production, adding that delays in importing materials used to make the drug are also contributing to the problem. He is not worried, though, because two companies are soon expected to import 2 million packages of penicillin to cover the market needs.

Strikes at pharmaceutical companies have impacted production, as well as the deteriorating security situation in Egypt, leading some companies to reduce shifts to ensure worker safety, Mehanna said. The downgrade of Egypt's credit rating following the revolution has also been problematic for importers and delayed the process of importing drugs because of pharmaceutical companies' lack of financial liquidity.

Mohsen Ahmed, chairman of the Egyptian Company for Pharmaceutical Trading, said his company has received large amounts of penicillin from the Nile Company for Pharmaceuticals and Chemical Industries and has stocked its affiliate pharmacies nationwide.

Translated from the Arabic Edition

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