Monday,11 December, 2017
Current issue | Issue 1298, (2 - 8 June 2016)
Monday,11 December, 2017
Issue 1298, (2 - 8 June 2016)

Ahram Weekly

Higher medicine prices

The prices of many medicines are set to go up after months of shortages, reports Ahmed Kotb

Economy
Economy
Al-Ahram Weekly

The Ministry of Health decided last week to increase the prices of medicines priced at less than LE30 by up to a maximum of 20 per cent, or LE6 per pack. The decision comes after several months of shortages of essential drugs.

Local pharmaceutical companies said they have been unable to produce the drugs in sufficient quantities owing to the dollar crisis, which made it significantly costlier to import raw materials. Faced with rising production costs, the companies asked the government to raise the fixed prices of many drugs.

Egypt imports about 90 per cent of the raw materials used in manufacturing the generic medicines sold in the domestic market. The prices of some of these locally produced drugs have not changed in more than 20 years.

The pharmaceutical companies are now required, following this week’s decision, to produce the medicines that had become unavailable, the ministry said in a press release. If they fail to do so, their licences will be revoked, the ministry said. It said that companies must not halt the production or sale of medicines for more than six months and that if they do their licences will be revoked.

Minister of Health Ahmed Emad said during a press conference last week that the prices approved by the ministry are those at which drugs will be sold on the Egyptian market. Lists of new prices will be distributed to all pharmacies and pharmaceutical companies across the country, he said, with strict inspection measures taken to make sure that there are no unauthorised price increases.

Medicines subject to the new price increases represent more than 50 per cent of all registered drugs. More than 8,000 medicines are priced at under LE30, out of some 13,000 on the market, according to the General Union of Pharmacists (GUP).

The GUP said that the medicines can be divided into two categories. The first includes drugs priced at under LE10, and these include about 3,550 products. There more than 4,500 medicines priced at more than LE10 but less than LE30.

The prices of some medicines have increased by more than 20 per cent over recent days, and some drugs are now priced at more than LE30. “Some companies have increased the prices of certain medicines by 50 per cent,” said pharmacist Kadry Mohamed. These include essential medicines like insulin, vitamins and some heart drugs.

Mohamed believes that the decision to increase prices is needed to stop the losses of many local pharmaceutical companies, but inspection of these companies must also be stricter, he said.

For Mahmoud Fouad, head of the Egyptian Centre for the Right to Medications (ECRM), the government’s decision to raise prices has only benefitted the pharmaceutical companies.

“We expected a price increase but not on the majority of medicines available in the market,” he said, adding that many poorer people without health insurance will be negatively affected by the new prices.

Fouad said that he expects more shortages in medicines later this year if the companies decide they want prices to be raised further, especially if the pound is again devalued against the dollar.

“There should be clear policies that oblige the companies to supply the market with vital drugs and punish those who manipulate prices more severely,” Fouad said.

He said that pricing should be based on a controlled system, but believes that the ministry did not do this efficiently.

“The prices of some active ingredients in medicines have gone down in recent years, reducing the cost of production for the pharmaceutical companies,” he pointed out, adding that the rise in prices should have excluded medicines benefiting from cost reductions in active ingredients.

However, one short-term advantage of the new measures will be that many vital medicines will again be available on the market after disappearing for several months, Fouad said.

 

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