CAIRO: The Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR) criticized the Minister of Health’s statements concerning the price reduction of 40 drugs, deeming them as “false.
Earlier this month, state-owned Al-Ahram published an article headlined “prices of 40 imported medical products reduced, saying that the medicines in question will be reduced by between 20 and 40 percent.
El-Gabaly is quoted as saying that the reduction “affirms that the decree [that would alter the process of medicine pricing] . will not result in medicine price increases, as was thought by some, but rather will provide the opportunity for the periodic review of prices.
The health minister criticized “those who cast doubt on the decree’s legitimacy without an objective evaluation, or scientific and applied study of it.
However, in a statement issued Monday, EIPR expresses its “astonishment at the “false and contradictory statements by the minister and other health ministry officials which affirm that the decree will not be backdated.
This, EIPR says, can only mean that the price reduction of these 40 drugs, registered before the enactment of the decree, “has no relation with the application of the new decree.
On Tuesday, the Administrative Court adjourned hearings in a case raised against a decree which radically altered the way medicines are priced.
EIPR raised a case against ministerial decree 373 last October, on the grounds that in passing it, the minister of health exceeded his powers by introducing a fundamental change that undermines the right to health as guaranteed by the constitution.
During Tuesday’s court session the Administrative Court adjourned proceedings until April 27, when a verdict will be delivered. EIPR says that judge Adel Farghaly rejected a motion submitted by government lawyers for another adjournment so that it can present defense pleadings.
The Ministry of Health meanwhile insists that prices will not increase under the new system. A central aspect of the debate surrounding the new decree has been whether its provisions will apply retrospectively, to the thousands of drugs already on the Egyptian market before the decree came into effect.
“The Ministry of Health wishes to prove that – contrary to reality – the new system will lead to a reduction in medicine prices. It has resorted to the stratagem of making false statements, which indicates ill-intention and floundering, assistant EIPR director Soha Abdelaty says in the statement.
EIPR researcher Dina Iskander told Daily News Egypt that the Ministry of Health has “consistently affirmed that the new pricing scheme would only apply to new medicines.
“Now that it is claiming that that this decree has caused prices of medicines that have already been registered in Egypt (some of them since 1992) to decrease suggests that either the Ministry of Health was misleading the public initially and that that the new decree [will in fact] apply to [previously] registered medicines, or that it is misleading us by claiming that the new decreases result from the new decree, Iskander commented.
In December Assistant Minister of Health for pharmaceutical affairs Kamal Sabra was categorical in statements made to Daily News Egypt that the decree would not be applied retrospectively, adding “I’d love to backdate it because it would bring prices down.
He denied that the decision to reduce the price of these 40 drugs had been taken under the provisions of decree 373.
He told Daily News Egypt that the prices were reviewed as a result of the creation of generic equivalents for the 40 originator brands in question.
“We looked at prices in neighboring countries such as Saudi Arabia and some European countries and discovered that prices had dropped because generic equivalents for these originator brands had been created, Sabra said.
“This is good for the consumer and for pharmaceutical companies .We can’t allow prices to be higher than neighboring countries.
“All countries review their prices. Ireland recently did an across the board review of all medicines and reduced prices by 40 percent.
Sabra said that this price review, which he insisted “has nothing to do with decree 373 and was not taken under its provisions, is part of review of the prices of 9,000 medicines the minister of health will undertake. “These 40 medicines are the first batch of this review.
When Daily News Egypt asked Sabra why the Al-Ahram article quotes health minister El-Gabaly as linking the new decree to a reduction in prices of previously-registered medicines – therefore apparently being applied retrospectively – Sabra said, “I don’t know.