DOHA: The GCC states are working on a plan to unify the prices of all medicines. A uniform price list is expected to be endorsed by a meeting of the Gulf Health Ministers early next year.
The unified prices, once implemented, may lead to a fall in the prices of medicines in member countries, including Qatar.
A mechanism to standardise the prices is currently being worked out and the complete process of reaching an agreement on uniform prices may take more than four years, according to media reports.
Currently wide disparities exist in the prices of medicines in the region, with prices remaining high in countries like Qatar.
This issue is being discussed at the 11th meeting of the joint GCC committee for medicine prices which began in Dubai yesterday. A senior representative of the Supreme Council of Health (SCH) is attending the meeting.
The move to unify the prices follows a decision by the GCC Health ministries last year to import medicines jointly through unified tenders.
Quoting Dr Ameen Husssain Al Ameeri, undersecretary at the Ministry of Health of the UAE, Qatar News Agency said that during the past ten meetings the GCC committee managed to prepare unified prices of three segments of medicines, which include those for endocrine disorders, diabetes, cardio- vascular diseases and internal diseases.
He said the UAE since last June reduced the prices of 6,632 medicines and a majority of them were at par with the standardised prices approved by the GCC committee.
He said the purpose of the series of meetings was to have unified prices for all medicines in the GCC countries..
“The ultimate aim is to provide medicines all over the GCC countries at same and minimum prices, relying on the GCC leaders’ decision to make the profit margins for dealers and the pharmacies not go beyond 44 percent,” said Al Ameeri.
Industry sources in Qatar, however, say that prices of medicines in Qatar have not seen any major changes over the past one year.
“No decline in the prices can be expected unless the international companies reduce their prices or profit margins of the local suppliers are cut,” said a pharmacist.
If the GCC countries take a joint decision to make the prices uniform, the international and regional suppliers will be forced to respond to it positively.
A decision by the SCH to liberalise imports has led to the entry of several new suppliers in the market as well as cheaper medicines from new sources in some Arab countries. This, however, has not had a major impact on the market, he added.
“The market is still dominated by the few leading suppliers. Any change in the prices would largely depend on them,” he said.