Turkish government takes action to decrease drug imports
Dilek Özçelik (L) raised the problem of cancer drug scarcity in Turkey when she asked for help from a minister and offered some money instead. AA photo
The Industry Ministry prepared a strategic document on medicine to produce imported medicine in Turkey, including drugs used in cancer treatment.
Industry Minister Nihat Ergün told reporters April 18 that the work on a strategic document about the medicine sector had been completed and it would be delivered to the Economy Coordination Board, where it will reach its last version, and it will be within the government’s action plans.
The study aims to lower the spending on the import of medicine by giving incentives to local production and research and development processes in the sector. “Our medicine imports cost 4.5 billion dollars while our medicine exports are 700 million dollars. The medicine sector has $11 billion-12 billion market in Turkey. This market is very open to research and development, innovation and technologic improvement. A road map was necessary in this area,” said Ergün, according to Anatolia news agency. He also said they aimed to make Turkey an important center of developing and innovating new drugs.
Drugs used in cancer treatment
The drugs Turkey is importing, including cancer drugs, are expensive drugs, and there will be incentives to produce these drugs in Turkey, an official from the Industry Ministry told the Hürriyet Daily News yesterday. The Health Ministry, Finance Ministry and Labor Ministry will be part of this project, which is a government initiative, according to the official.
Ergün also said the drugs used in cancer treatment would be included in this document. The scarcity of some drugs used in cancer treatment came into Turkey’s agenda when a young cancer patient asked Environment and Urban Planning Minister Erdoğan Bayraktar for assistance buying her medicine but was offered cash instead on April 14.
Bayraktar’s gesture was widely criticized in the media. It offended Dilek Özçelik, who approached the minister again and returned the money. “I was misunderstood. I am not a beggar. I have been disappointed about human kindness again. I can see that you never experienced what it feels like to be helpless,” she said, before bursting into tears and running away. Speaking on this issue on a TV program, Forestry and Waterworks Minister Veysel Eroğlu said he did not consider it right for a minister to give money to anyone. “Sometimes I come across [people who demand money]. It does not look right if I give them money from my pocket, but my guards give them money because I don’t find it suitable for a minister to give money from his pocket,” said Eroğlu.
Meanwhile, the medical oncology association said drugs used in cancer treatment such as Dacarbazine, bleomycin and siklofosfamid cannot be found in Turkey, said the association in a statement. It also told authorities that these drugs could only be found on the black market at very expensive prices.
Sevim Songün Demirezen from the Daily News Istanbul bureau has contributed to this report.