Medical association chief Jassim al-Azzawi announced in November that his team was digitizing prescriptions. Given Iraq’s healthcare woes, this may appear normal. Using handwritten prescriptions might be a challenge.

Some doctors use unreadable handwriting coding while making prescriptions for drugs. The doctor’s handwritten code is hard to decipher.

Dealer doctors are doctors who negotiate per-unit monetary payments for transporting drugs. Doctors and pharmacists can raise the expenses of their patients’ medications by adjusting the prices at various pharmacies.

Not only are price swings a concern. The efforts of politicians, companies, and armed groups to get medicine into Iraq are coordinated. An insignificant portion of the $3 billion pharmaceutical industry’s profits are donated to the public coffers.

Pharmaceuticals are at the heart of the conflict in Iraq.

It is common knowledge that the illicit pharmaceutical trade is equally as lucrative and detrimental to public health as the smuggling and war surrounding Iraq’s weapons, oil, and gas industries. When it comes to conflicts, health care is an important component. Politicians in Iraq are heavily dependent on the selling and importation of illegal drugs.

A significant portion of the medications shipped to Iraq come from Iran, Jordan, and Turkey. In addition to the United States, France, India, and Bangladesh, there are also representatives from these countries. The way a drug gets to Iraq’s medical market depends on where it is manufactured.

Import and sale of overseas pharmaceuticals are hindered by informal procedures. Um Qasr port, located south of Basra, serves as a gateway for Iraqi exports. Customs officials are bribed to avoid paying import taxes. A pharmaceutical company owner noted, “An agent indicated which port bay to enter to minimize customs duties.” Border crossing smuggling is both regional and national, according to firsthand knowledge.

Smuggling is legal at government-controlled borders because authorities condone it.

Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) hiked the price of a drug 1,500%. According to a KRG official, the government’s failure to pay taxes on a regular basis is problematic. Trade routes and Iraqi Kurdistan’s borders are also important places to collect bribes.


When political groups coordinate illicit border crossings to bring drugs into Iraq, this taxation vanishes. It is difficult to smuggle drugs into Iraq across several of its land borders with Iran and Turkey because of these unofficial routes of access.

Generic pharmaceuticals enter Iraq through illegal border crossings. According to our industry contacts, many smuggled drugs are fakes. Some therapies are less effective due to chemical changes, but they are less expensive.

The cost of generic pharmaceuticals is too high in a society where the gap between the rich and poor widens.

Even approved generics may be too expensive in a society where the gap between rich and poor continues to widen. Unemployed or low-income patients are forced to use substandard medication. Iraq’s pharmaceutical trade and prescription pathways exacerbate health inequities.

Officials in Iraq are concerned about substandard and counterfeit medicines. As of 2020, Um Qasr could contain up to 50 tonnes of potentially harmful drugs. According to this study, it is unwise to criticize Iraqi border guards and customs officers. Who will benefit and who will lose money has a direct impact on border security.

Observations on current events

As a result of the illegal importation of drugs and the smuggling of drugs into Iraq, the pharmaceutical industry is flourishing. More is being done to defend medications by political parties and armed groups.

Prohibiting the sale of medicines while simultaneously implementing electronic prescribing systems has no chance of success.

Basra International Airport was raided by Iraq’s National Security Agency in 2013. There was a lack of government authorisation for importers. Importers with ties to the political system frequently avoid detection. Government enforcement is complicated by the absence of political protection afforded to traders, as seen below.

Anti-smuggling efforts are hampered by complex networks and ambiguous trade lines. Not every problem can be solved by drawing lines. Drug smugglers will not be deterred by digital prescriptions. The supply chain for war must be linked by policymakers. Corruption is tolerated by a number of Iraqi political groups with strong ties to Western reformers.

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