Dr. Yadgar Ahmad, a friend of Dr. Muhammad’s who also owns a chain of stores in Sulaymaniyah, agreed that officials are likely complicit in the illegal trade. “Those who are behind the smuggling of oil and arms are the same ones who are smuggling drugs,” he said. “No one can bring drugs into the region if he is not well-supported. Political parties do want not this problem to be solved."
NIQASH made a number of attempts to speak with drug smugglers, but they all refused, saying that revealing information about the trade would endanger their lives.
Regardless of who is responsible, both consumers and pharmacies aren’t left with much choice but to buy the smuggled drugs. While consumers complain that they cannot trust the quality of the medicines they buy, a medicine specialist who asked not to be named told NIQASH that sometimes buying smuggled drugs is the only way to get patients what they need.
He bought contraband cancer medication directly from a smuggler to help patients in desperate need, he said. Waiting for legally imported drugs can be fatal, he said.