x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Health official says drug prices will soon drop

SHARJAH // Ministry of Health officials indicated yesterday that the agency will move to lower drugs prices that a study has shown are the highest in the region.

Dr Amin al Amiri, the ministry's executive director of medical practices and licences, said an announcement next week would relieve patients of concerns over high prices, but he gave no further details.

He was speaking at an open forum for pharmacists, which was hosted by the ministry and attended by 700 people. "We have done a study and compiled prices from six Gulf countries and found that our prices were the highest," he said. "You find a drug costing Dh180 in the UAE and it costs Dh105 in Saudi Arabia. This is not fair."

The ministry was negotiating with international pharmaceutical companies and held discussions with three of them on Sunday and Monday, Dr al Amiri said. The price of drugs would be reduced for patients after an announcement by the health minister next week, he said.

He also warned pharmacists who sold products either above or below the ministry's set prices to stop the practice.

Pharmacists who attended the forum said their customers had complained about high costs, which might have prompted some retailers to sell medications at a reduced rate. "There are no discounts, bonuses or increments in selling drugs," Dr al Amiri said.

There are 1,400 pharmacies operating in the Emirates. A pharmacist must work for two years after graduation before becoming eligible for a licence to start a practice. Those entering the profession were warned that the ministry would have zero tolerance for any violations of professional ethics.

Dr al Amiri told the audience he stood behind three clients who received medication without prescriptions in a pharmacy in Sharjah. He then asked for Tamiflu, an influenza treatment, which was given to him without a prescription.

"I then identified myself to the man and sought his papers," he said. "He started apologising, saying that he is actually not a pharmacist but a porter and was just helping a pharmacist who had gone out.

"I ordered the pharmacy to be closed immediately and the next morning the owner, a local man and a friend of my father, called to tell me that it was his pharmacy I had closed. I told him it will remain closed for three months and closed forever if the practice was repeated."

Dr al Amiri also warned those who did not dress professionally that it was a serious violation of their professional ethics.

"There should be a distinction between you, a pharmacist, and your cleaner," he said.