Lebanon’s health minister raids medicines warehouse stockpiling subsidized imports

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Lebanon’s Minister of Health Hamad Hassan raided a medicine warehouse in south Lebanon on Monday after the ministry received intel that the owner had stockpiled subsidized medicines amid a worsening shortage in medicine in the crisis-hit country.

The warehouse was stockpiled with tons of subsidized and stored medicines which have been absent from Lebanese pharmacies including chronic illness medicines.

Local media reported that the warehouse is owned by Issam Khalifa who is affiliated with Lebanon’s Hezbollah.

The company’s registration and authorization documentation showed that Hussein Fneish, the brother of Hezbollah’s parliament member Mohammed Fneish, is also a partner in the warehouse. Fneish issued a statement that claimed he had sold his stocks in the company in 2012.

The local currency has lost more than 90 percent of its value on the black market, but the central bank had been providing importers with dollars at the much more favorable official rate to cover a large part of the cost of imported drugs.

The medicine crisis is worsening in Lebanon, with the expected significant rise in prices, after the Ministry of Health issued new price regulations for medicines at a new exchange rate of 12,000 Lebanese pounds to the dollar.

The government resigned after a deadly port explosion on August 4 last year, but a deeply divided political class has failed since to agree on a new cabinet to lift the nation out of crisis.

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