The Pharmacists Syndicate confirmed on Monday in a press conference that it will hold a six-hour strike on 15 January in opposition to the government’s decision to not increase profit margins for pharmacies.
The syndicate said it took such a decision because all other efforts to solve the issue of random medication pricing have failed.
“The syndicate has addressed the Ministry of Health to solve the medicine crisis,” the statement said, adding that it was met by silence from the ministry which took the side of the companies. The syndicate asserted that their decision to strike is not directed against citizens, but is for the common good. “On the contrary,” the statement said, “this decision was taken to improve the availability of medicine to the public and will help stop monopolisation.”
The statement also said that the syndicate remains an entity that supports stability in the country. It said it is protesting against arbitrary policies of pharmaceutical companies to recall expired medication.
Mahmoud Abdel Maqsoud, head of the Public Pharmaceutical Division of the Federation of Egyptian Chambers of Commerce, said that the division refuses the decision to strike. He told Daily News Egypt that the division represents more than 80% of the country’s pharmacies and not the syndicate, which represents only individual pharmacists who have official permits to practise the profession, but do not necessarily operate pharmacies.
He added that around 80% of the country’s pharmacies are not obliged to follow the syndicate’s decisions. He explained that he wants to allow pharmacists to increase profit margins to 25% on local medicine, and 18% on imported medicine.
Abdel Maqsoud said he disagrees with striking as a tool to pressure the government, and called for more negotiations with the Ministry of Health and the manufacturing companies.
The Minister of Health suggested imposing a 50% increase annually on 10% of all pharmaceutical products, with pledges to reduce the fees for customs, water, electricity, and gas, in addition to an exemption from the value-added tax. However, companies rejected the suggestion, so the minister proposed increasing prices every six months, rather than every year.
The syndicate said that it was impossible to remain calm and watch medicine companies prevent pharmacists from increasing their profit margins, which they say would affect pharmaceutical companies’ profits, not that of the customer.
The syndicate cited previous court verdicts, arguing that the profit margin has been the same for over the last 30 years.
Head of the Pharmacists Syndicate Mohy Naqeb also protested in the press conference against what he called the marginalisation of the syndicate.
The syndicate said that according to the Constitution, the ministry has to involve it in any talks that involve potential price increases in medication. It also added that any increases without detailed accurate studies and thorough discussions with the syndicate and its members may be a sign the medicine companies are looking to maximise their profits at the expense of the citizens.
The syndicate further demanded the establishment of a committee under the supervision of the president to include all the institutions concerned with manufacturing medicine in Egypt to control the cost of medication.
The market has suffered from an acute shortage of imported medication amid the decision of the Central Bank of Egypt (CBE) to float the Egyptian pound early in November. The decision led to a significant increase in the cost of importing and producing medication.