Procurement of Controlled Drugs in the Middle East


Full Registered User
Dear all,

I'm currently managing a Dive Support Vessel operating off the Al Faw peninsular, Iraq. Our logistics chain is back through Kuwait and it is a 5-12 hour transit to get to any shoreside medical facility (we cannot land casualties in Iraq). Our vessel has no Morphine or any other controlled drugs onboard and, despite the best efforts of my offshore medic, we have not been able to identify a legal route to procure such items.

I suspect that it's a non starter but thought if anyone would know how to go about this, it would be one of you chaps.

Any assistance gratefully received.....................

Many thanks!

The quick answer to your problem is to employ either a Doctor or Paramedic, who are lawfully entitled to obtain, possess and administer such meds. He she can then import the meds.

It's not quite that simplistic and he/she would have to have bomb proof documentation, but that's one way to do it.

The other way is to employ a tame local Doctor who sources and supplies for you.

Be aware that in some countries some common meds are unlawful in any circumstance (Codeine in Greece for example). MOR is always a red flag, and tends to attract the attention of the authorities. KET can be a better option but then you'll need access to MDZ as well.
Tell me to shut up if you want, but I thought scale of kit was decided by your topside cover alongside your clinical governance, also I'm pretty sure if you spoke to one of the better know suppliers of kit for the O&G industry that they could get the drugs out to you by some means ?.
I maybe completely wrong if I am I'll go back to my dark place :)

Yep, you're absolutely correct. That's assuming that they've got top cover of course - many haven't. Secondly, as I'm sure you're aware, an OSM is not considered a health care pro in the way that Paras and Docs are, so can't source meds in the way that us mere mortals do. For instance, I have an account with a supplier, so can source anything that I may need almost overnight, without having to refer the matter to others first.

I aggree that if the OSM was having probs, then hooking up with the usual suspect suppliers would be a starting point, but it won't answer the meds issue.

Ultimately, they need to get a tame doc on the books that can sort it out for a fee.
Cheers starlight, so some companies employ medics without top cover, really ? Not good mate.
Boomer what's the score have you guys got top cover etc.
Stay safe

Define "A tame doc"

Ive just discovered that one of the top rated CP companys working both sides of the pond, doesnt have a tame doctor (read MEDICAL DIRECTOR on board. When bringing up the issue, the first question was "MONEY"
Go figure
Yes DrMike, it is more than likely money. Many of the top players in the industry don't have the top cover or the appropriate Health Care Professionals on their books and issues like this happen. All well and good in the purse dept until something goes wrong.
Its already happened and I think most are taking note, but to many, good quality qualified medical staff and resources are like an unwanted insurance policy! So they go cheap...... but when they need a payout on that policy ... well they get what they pay for sadly!
On a positive note mind , quite a few companies are only now taking on the correctly trained , registered and experienced level of medical care that is needed. Not sure how much is on the advice of clinicians or insurance stipulations.Hopefully it will become standard throughout eventually.
But back to the original topic I have a question! If you can't order it , how can you store it and more importantly how can you give a controlled drug? I'm a bit vague on what drugs a OSM can use ?
I've worked for one of the big players in Iraq, who specifically required a Paramedic with all the add ons in country. When I got there, there was no kit....I mean nothing. However, they could say that they had an appropriately qualified HCP in country.

I could go on, but I'll end up chucking my laptop through the window if I do, so best not.........
Thanks guys,

To clarify, we're not connected to O&G and have had only a few days to mobilise and get on site. The medic came onboard whilst we were on passage and there has been no time for him to obtain medicines other than what was in our crash bag. We have an arrangement through insurance for shoreside topcover in the event of a Casevac, but we have had problems with hiring through agencies in the past as some of the agency medics have baulked at the very basic conditions and facilities onboard. We did actually hire a doctor on an earlier project and he lasted three days! We have, instead, elected to direct hire an ex military medic who we know and trust. He's paid more than he would be through an agency and I'm more than happy that he can cope with any medical emergency we are likely to sustain, so cash and competency are not the chief issues here. The lack of controlled drugs this time round was more a question of time than money and I'm trying to rectify the situation retrospectively. We have already tried ship's chandlers and the ship management company.

Thanks for all the advice so far though fellahs. Will let you know how things turn out.


Boomer, have you tried linking in to one of the Dubai based agencies. Something like an agreement of understanding with ISOS or RMSI? They may be in a position to assist.

Has your OSM got a b2b. If yes, get him/her to source stuff in the UK (or wherever). Then issue official company paperwork so that he/she can bring kit through when they return from leave. If you go down this route, it would be wise to seek the advice of the embassy of the country concerned.

Good luck.....
I also had a scenario as I had a shipment of drugs in the middle east, after much research I came across Qafila, and to be fair, they had the best-suited shipping options for me. As my shipment was not quite much, I easily availed of the LCL services. This whole process was completely secure and was on time.