CAIRO: Cairo’s Administrative Court yesterday ordered that the government freeze the application of a Ministry of Health decree passed last year that radically altered the way medicines are priced.
“This verdict protects citizens from violations of their right to access to medicine, a right inseparable from the rights to health and life,” lawyer Adel Ramadan from the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR) NGO is quoted as saying in a press statement issued Tuesday.
Ministry of Health decree 373 came into effect in September 2009. It introduced two new pricing regimes for innovator brands and generic medicines, linking the costing of each to the international market prices of innovator brands.
The pre-existing Cost Plus system priced medicines on the basis of the cost of the raw materials used to produce them. EIPR challenged the decree as being unconstitutional, and warned that under the pricing scheme it introduced medicine prices would increase dramatically.
In addition, EIPR’s right to health researcher Dina Iskandar warned that the decree is unworkable in practice, and that it “contains loopholes allowing pharmaceutical companies to circumvent pricing rules and obtain the highest price for their drug regardless of the actual cost”.
EIPR says in its statement that the government is under an obligation to ensure that pricing schemes allow access for all to quality medicines. The NGO demands in its statement that members of the public and civil society representatives be allowed to contribute to the drawing up of medicine pricing schemes.
EIPR says that it and other civil society groups were not consulted on decree 373 at the same time as the Ministry of Health held a roundtable discussion with representatives of the pharmaceutical industry.
The Ministry of Health could not be reached for comment on the verdict.