By: Lamia Nabil
The recent medicine price hikes and the disappearance of various types of medicines on the Egyptian market have created a debate within the country, adding more concerns to Egyptians who are already suffering from a lack of adequate healthcare services.
Pharmaceutical companies, particularly regional and multinational ones, argue that the worldwide rising prices of medicinal drugs, which are imported using US dollars, forced them to either raise prices for some medicines or stop production altogether.
Some physicians and chemists see the increase in some medicine prices as fair, calling on the health ministry to approve some of the hikes. Others have criticized pharmaceutical companies for focusing only on profits, even at the expense of the poor.
General Secretary of the Pharmacists’ Syndicate Abdallah Zein Al-Abideen said that the Ministry of Health is reconsidering raising prices slightly, “by a few piasters”, for certain medicines currently priced under EGP 5.
Most of the medicines are not available in pharmacies, while some necessary types of baby-milk and eye drops are also unavailable. Yet pharmaceutical companies suffer great losses, according to Adel Abd el-Maqsoud, chairman of the Pharmacists’ division at the Chamber of Commerce.
The government pays public sector companies for certain low-cost medicines, but cannot cover the cost for major, more expensive medicinal drugs. Prices of these major medicines have been negatively impacted by the increasing inflation rate.
Salah Al-Sharqawy, chairman of the board of directors at pharmaceutical company Novartis, claims that multinational pharmaceutical companies’ high prices can be attributed to the pricy imported raw materials used to produce high quality medicines.
According to Al-Sharqawy, the Ministry of Health should accordingly consider approving reasonable price hikes in order to better reflect the market.