BITTER MEDICINE

 29 Mar 2014 - 4:09

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Consumers weighed down by high drug prices can soon heave a sigh of relief as prices of several medicines are expected to fall in the near future. 

In a recently held meeting of the GCC Committee for Medicine Prices, member countries, including Qatar, moved a step further in bringing uniformity in prices of medicines, which will ultimately lead to a decline in prices in Qatar.
The undersecretary for medicines and medical supply affairs at Kuwait’s Ministry of Health, Dr Omar Sayeed Omar, in his opening speech at the 14th meeting of the GCC Committee for Medicine Prices, held in Kuwait on March 24, said the members had studied 1,884 of a total of 2,966 medicines for fixing their prices.
After getting approval from members of the committee, the prices will be conveyed to the companies concerned, and they will have 60 days to respond by accepting or rejecting the prices. If the companies have any objections, the committee will study them.
He said the committee had observed that there was disparity in prices of medicines in the GCC countries but the gap was gradually narrowing.
He added that the narrowing disparity would lead to a reduction in prices and make them stable, even if there are currency fluctuations. It would also strengthen the position of the GCC countries in dealing with pharmaceutical companies.
Due to a wide disparity in prices of medicines among GCC countries, the member states had agreed to work on a mechanism to bring uniformity in the prices. In 2012, they decided to import medicines jointly through common tenders.
In Qatar, prices of medicines are higher than in other countries in the region. Qatari nationals and expatriates say that in spite of steps taken by the Supreme Council of Health, prices of some medicines remain high. Due to the higher prices, consumers are buying medicines from neighbouring countries where they are available at much lower rates.
Consumers blame private pharmacies for the high drug prices. They complain that not only are prices high at these pharmacies but they also vary from shop to shop. Consumers are demanding regular inspections of private pharmacies to check the prices of medicines.
Patients also complain of unavailability of certain medicines, especially those for chronic ailments, at HMC pharmacies, which forces them to buy the medicines from private pharmacies.
Experts say that reducing the prices of medicines in Qatar and bringing them on a par with prices in other GCC countries will also help the government check smuggling of medicines from other countries.