Responding to the launch of the Health Ministry’s new hotline today for people in Lebanon to report pharmacies unlawfully selling medicines at prices higher than those set by the government, Aya Majzoub, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa, said:
“People in Lebanon have been suffering for years as short-sighted government policies have left them unable to access or afford life-saving medication amid a devastating economic crisis that has pushed more than 80% of the population into poverty.
“While the price complaints hotline announced by the Ministry of Public Health is a step in the right direction, the authorities must ensure that it is granted the necessary resources to operate effectively and that those suspected of “price gouging” are held to account.
“The ministry should share information about the number of calls the hotline receives and reveal the measures taken against pharmacies that are found to be inflating prices. The scope of the hotline could also be expanded to include other types of complaints around accessing medicines, including the sale of expired or counterfeit medicines.
“The government must urgently take other steps to deal with the extent of the health crisis in Lebanon and make health care affordable for people. It must increase the budget for primary health care centres, strengthen social assistance programmes and implement long-overdue economic and financial reforms that are necessary for safeguarding human rights.”
On 6 March, the Minister of Public Health announced that it will launch two systems to address the unavailability and unaffordability of medications: MediTrack, a computerized system aimed at combating the hoarding and smuggling of medications for cancer and incurable diseases; and a complaints hotline where residents can report pharmacies for selling medicine at prices higher than those set by the government.
The government’s failure to address the economic crisis has plunged at least 80% of Lebanon’s population into poverty and triggered a devastating healthcare crisis. Most medications became unaffordable after the authorities lifted subsidies on them in 2019.
The government has also failed to guarantee adequate social protection to mitigate the impact of the economic crisis on people’s ability to access healthcare and other basic rights. Primary Health Care Centres (PHCCs), which are severely underfunded, are now the only non-private option for accessing free or affordable medication.
For more information about the impact of the economic crisis on the availability and affordability of medication in Lebanon, please see:
Lebanon: Government must address medication shortages and healthcare crisis – Amnesty International
Lebanon: Government recklessness in medication subsidy reform violates right to health and life – Amnesty International