x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

Medicine cost for chronic illnesses down 40 per cent in UAE

Cuts to price of 6,632 types of drugs agreed after two years of talks between Ministry of Health and pharmaceutical companies.

Dubai // Drugs to treat chronic conditions such as hypertension and diabetes top the list of more than 6,600 medicines slashed in price from today.

The cost of medication for hypertension and heart failure is reduced by up to 40 per cent, anti-depressants by up to 13 per cent, anti-viral drugs for HIV treatment by up to 16 per cent and asthma drugs by up to 25 per cent.

The cuts will affect 6,632 medicines, 94 per cent of all products available. They follow a review of the drug market by the Ministry of Health and two years of talks with pharmaceutical companies, who agreed to drop the wholesale price of medicines sold to local agents.

"This is a great support to the poor and needy patients who need these medicines at the lowest price possible," said Dr Amin Al Amiri, an assistant undersecretary at the ministry.

"Through this initiative, the first of its kind in the Middle East, we are able to support the poor patients, especially those with chronic diseases who will rely on medications all of their life, such as diabetic patients, those with hypertension, patients with cardiovascular diseases and epilepsy and patients infected with HIV or hepatitis viruses."

The review followed a study of the cost of medicines in the UAE compared with Lebanon, Bahrain, Oman, Saudi Arabia and Jordan.

It found the prices in the UAE were considerably higher, especially for drugs to treat chronic diseases.

"Therefore we were so keen to communicate with the pharmaceutical industries that are based here in the Emirates," said Dr Al Amiri. "We got great support from them and we were able to reduce the price of the medicines by up to 40 per cent for 6,632 products here in the country."

The new system will unify the cost of imported medicines in US dollars and will fix the profits of agents at 15 per cent. It will also increase the profit margins of nearly 2,000 independent pharmacies.

Most pharmacies sell products at a profit of about 18 per cent for chronic disease medicines and 24 per cent for non-chronic diseases.

Medicines priced between Dh1 and Dh250 can be sold for a profit of 28 per cent on the original price from the makers. Medicines from Dh250 to Dh500 can be sold for a mark-up of 24 per cent, while those priced more than Dh500 can only be sold for a 20 per cent profit.

Dr Yacoub Haddad, public affairs and policy director for the Middle East for health care leader MSD and a representative for PhRMAG (Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers Association Gulf), welcomed the changes.

"The UAE is a growing market and with transparency and adopting the right attitudes and right policies it will improve investment and promote growth in the sector," said Dr Haddad.

"The announcement comes after a lot of work and discussions with the pharmaceutical industry to agree on the prices.

"I think they are fair prices and they will ensure all people have access to a range of medicines at reasonable prices.

"We all work to ensure patients receive the medicines at affordable prices. That is why we sat down and discussed a number of issues and we decided to go ahead and reduce our prices to ensure that the patients will get the most appropriate price."