Turkish health minister vows to raid pharmaceuticals "stockpilers"

Turkish Minister of Health Fahrettin Koca has accused pharmaceutical companies of stockpiling medicines to take advantage of the price rises expected in February, Turkish independent news site Gazete Duvar reported on Thursday.

Vowing not to allow this to happen, the minister said inspectors are being sent to warehouses where medicines are kept to ensure that stock-piling does not take place.

“In the last 10 days 900 of out inspectors have discovered stockpiling by 42 manufacturers, 20 warehouses and 32 chemists,” Duvar quoted Koca as saying.

“We don’t want to leave our citizens without medicine. There’s no shortage of it. In the coming days, I can comfortably say that we will intensify our inspections and prevent stockpiling from happening, if necessary by closing (companies),” he said.

Amid a problematic financial year for Turkey in 2018, one of the toughest economic battles for Turkey’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) government was to keep price inflation in check.

This was no easy task given that the central bank’s figures put inflation at a 15-year high of over 25 percent in October. The figure had dropped to around 20 percent by the year’s end. The inflation was compounded by a weak lira that dropped to a low of 7.24 to the dollar in August, rebounding to around 5.2 by the end of the year.

Despite this, the Turkish government has blamed price rises on staple goods including onions and potatoes on “opportunists,” and last November it sent police and inspectors to raid onion and potato warehouses it said had been used to stockpile vegetables.

As well as likely rising due inflated incidental costs to farmers, the price of these staple goods may also have been affected by reported blights that Turkish local newspaper Yeni Alanya said in November had affected around 40 percent of onion and potato crops.

Meanwhile, observers have long warned that the low prices set by the government in Turkey could trigger medicine shortages as international pharmaceuticals companies stop sending the country their stocks.

Medicine prices are set by the government at the beginning of the year, meaning that the lira’s loss in value last year brought pharmaceutical prices among the lowest in the world.

“It’s obvious that at these prices, companies at the very least will not be keen to supply products. Local companies are suffering, too, as they have to import their materials,” financial news site Para Analiz quoted pharmaceutical industry journalist Hakan Gençosmanoğlu as saying last September.