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Moving medicine in Iraq: The political economy of the pharmaceutical trade


Poor infrastructure and even poorer governance is a critical part of the story of healthcare in Iraq, but so too is the complex issue of the movement and supply of medicines.

Last November, the head of the Iraqi Medical Association, Jassim al-Azzawi, stated that his team was making progress on digitized pharmaceutical prescriptions. This assertion may sound strangely mundane considering the many challenges facing Iraq’s healthcare system. But handwritten medical prescriptions have for years been a point of contention in the country.

Some doctors use handwritten coding systems when prescribing medications, scripts illegible to everyone but the pharmacists with whom the prescribing doctor has a partnership. Prescription in hand, patients are directed to the doctor’s chosen pharmacy – and the only pharmacist able to interpret the scribbled code.

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