IRANIAN coronavirus patients are dying after being treated with ineffective expired drugs as the state’s death toll from the pandemic is now 15,000, an opposition group has claimed.
Iranian dissidents have alleged the regime has been systematically importing out-of-date medicines as part of a culture of corruption and corner cutting in the health service.
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The Sun Online can reveal the shocking details from a first look at a new report due to be published by the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), an opposition group living in exile.
Coronavirus has ravaged Iran as it has become one of the worst impacted nations in the world, with the official death toll standing at 3,160 from more than 50,00 confirmed cases.
NCRI insiders have however claimed the figure is actually five times higher, with “massive fatalities” reaching over 15,000 across 237 cities.
The opposition group blames this horrific number on an under resourced health service blighted by corruption.
One of the most damning allegations is that the Iranian regime bulk buys out of date medicines for use in its hospitals – including on coronavirus patients.
It is alleged the government scoops up drugs that have been taken off the market and imports them for use in Iran.
NCRI officials warned this is “seriously endangering the lives of patients” in a time of national crisis – and told The Sun Online these dodgy drugs will have contributed to the coronavirus death toll.
The organisation also said Iran is trying to shift the blame over the lack of medical resources to the US.
Doctors are left with no choice but to use the limited resources they have to try and save lives – but medicines are often duds or dangerous.
It is claimed the expired medicine is purchased by the regime and then flogged back to hospitals at inflated prices.
Sources claimed that medicines may be purchased for around £9 – and then are sold at a near five fold mark up at £44.
The NCRI is an opposition group based in France and Albania which advocates the overthrown of the Iranian regime.
In the report, the opposition group decries these medical practices as “playing with people’s lives” for financial gain.
The new report is titled Source of Crisis of Medicine, Medical Facilities and Equipment in Iran, and lays out a culture of corruption as to blame as Tehran attempts to blame US sanctions.
A doctor working during the coronavirus crisis in Mashhad told The Sun Online there is a grim picture of healthcare in Iran.
He explained the hospitals are almost full to bursting – and they do not have what they need to stop the outbreak, with some doctors also infected with coronavirus.
The medic said: “Facilities are woefully inadequate. We have no masks, no protective shields, no hand disinfectants.
“Only God has saved us so far. They provided alcohol to doctors to disinfect. Instead of 70 per cent alcohol, it is 70 per cent water.”
Corruption has allegedly led to billions going missing from the health ministry’s coffers.
Health minister Saied Namaki even admitted last year that at least £1billion had vanished without a trace.
NCRI officials allege the state’s pharmaceuticals industry is in the hands of a small pool of individuals who run it via a monopoly with links to the regime.
False shortages are allegedly created as medicines are strategically hoarded in warehouses.
The report quotes an Iranian medical source, who said: “It can be said with confidence that at least three to four companies have these medicines in their warehouse.”
They added: “These companies are, in fact, rivals, but for their common interest, they have coordinated not to distribute the medicine until its price goes up.”
It is estimated around £40million worth medicines are hoarded in these warehouses.
Foreign medical aid is also alleged to be siphoned off to line the pockets of high ranking officials.
Coronavirus was first officially detected in Iran late in February, but the NCRI claim government documents prove the regime was actually aware of cases in January.
Tehran ran a publicly calamitous effort to curb the outbreak, ignoring health experts advice and not imposing a lockdown until it was already too late.
The virus quickly took hold and the nation became an epicentre for the bug in the Middle East.
Iranian officials have been accused of downplaying the number of cases, failing to acknowledge the threat, and allowing a power struggle between the government and the military to impact the response.
Deputy health minister Iraj Harirchi denied covering up the outbreak as he himself appeared bathed in sweat from fever – only to later confirm he had coronavirus.
Supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei also claimed the virus was “created by America” as he attempted to shift the blame.
Disturbing videos emerged from the Islamic republic of stacks of body bags allegedly containing coronavirus victims piling up in hospitals.
Satellite pictures also reportedly show mass graves being dug for the victims of the outbreak.
Iran has blamed the devastation brought to the nation by coronavirus on US sanctions, saying the measures have contributed to the lack of medicines and supplies.
The regime has pleaded for them to be lifted, and said they are costing Iranian lives during the pandemic.
Foreign minister Javad Zarif called the sanctions “economic terrorism” in a video message he delivered while wearing a surgical mask and blue latex gloves.
He said: “We had always said the sanctions are unjust but coronavirus revealed this injustice to the world.”
US officials have however responded churlishly, saying the plea is a ploy to weasel out of the sanctions.
Sectary of State Mike Pompeo said: “[It] isn’t about fighting the pandemic, it’s about cash for the regime leaders.”
And State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus urged Iran to “stop lying” and also blamed Tehran.
The US has offered Iran medical aid, but also imposed a fresh round of sanctions amid the pandemic.
NCRI officials claim the horrific impacts of coronavirus in Iran are not to do with sanctions, and called for any relief given to the country not to be handed directly to the regime.
Shahin Gobadi, from the NCRI, told The Sun Online said: “The critical problems concerning medicine in Iran are a direct result of the regime’s practices and policies.
“No area in Iran has been spared institutionalized corruption involving the regime’s top officials.
“Alongside widespread theft, medical shortages and high prices are caused by monopolies hoarding medicine with the backing of senior officials.
“The crisis in the making over the years has been highlighted during the coronavirus pandemic.”
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He added: “The clerical regime did not face any obstacles or prohibitions in purchasing or importing medicine or medical equipment, but instead of being concerned about people’s lives, it is rather concerned about sanctions imposed on their own money.
“The regime is exploiting the Iranian people’s predicament to try to lift the sanctions to have more means to continue its repression, terrorism, and belligerence.
“Not even a dime given to this regime will reach the Iranian people. All assistance to Iran should be sent and distributed directly by international agencies. Otherwise, they will be stolen by the regime.”
Coronavirus cases have now surpassed one million worldwide, with more than 53,000 people killed by the disease.