Bahrain pharmas petition against price cuts
Manama, January 20, 2014
Bahrain's pharmacies have submitted a petition to the government against moves to slash the retail price of thousands of medicines.
They were ordered to reduce their profit margins on around 5,000 products from yesterday, meaning significant savings for shoppers, said a report in the Gulf Daily News (GDN), our sister publication.
However, they claim they were given just a week to implement the order by the National Health Regulatory Authority (NHRA).
Under new rules, chemists can make maximum profit of 35 per cent on products sold for less than BD20 ($52) and 25 per cent profit on those sold for more than BD20.
This compares to a previous profit ceiling of 45 per cent.
In the long-term, the NHRA wants to bring medicine prices down for consumers even more by negotiating cheaper prices with drug suppliers.
NHRA chief executive Dr Baha Eldin Fateha warned any pharmacies that ignored the new pricing structure would face prosecution.
"In the GCC, Bahrain has the highest price for medicines and we find that many people travel to Saudi Arabia to buy medicine," he said yesterday.
"We have been facing resistance from pharmaceutical companies about the change, but they have been instructed to do it.
"If they don't do it then, according to the law, we will file a report and take it straight to the Public Prosecutor.
"Pharmacies just have to cut down their profit margin on these products - whether or not they have the stock is irrelevant."
He said that by the end of the year medicine prices in Bahrain could halve - making them comparable to other GCC countries.
"We are working on the next phase now, which is to reduce the cost of medicines itself through the suppliers and that will be far more noticeable to the consumer," said Dr Fateha.
Pharmacies will be given three months to sell existing stock before the second phase kicks in, therefore reducing the impact of price reductions on those stocking medicines previously imported at a higher cost.
However, up to 60 pharmacies held an emergency meeting on Saturday to discuss the new pricing measures.
Former chairman of the Pharmacies Owners and Importers Society and Gulf Pharmacy chief executive Dr Khalid Alawadhi said businesses were willing to comply, but needed more time.
"Every pharmacy will have to change the price of around 5,000 products, of which we have at least two or three items, in only one week - it is just not logistically possible," he claimed.
"We all knew that it was going to happen, but only found out one week in advance that it was going to be on January 19.
"You have to think that every pharmacy will have to re-price between 12,000 and 40,000 items in only one week.
"Not all pharmacies are capable of doing that on such short notice."
He claimed that during the general assembly, some pharmacy owners said they were contemplating closing to avoid legal action.
"We all agreed not to do that because it is very unethical to shut a pharmacy as people need their medicine," said Dr Alawadhi.
"We have all sent letters to the NHRA to ask if we should shut down and change the price or stay open and continue selling until we have re-priced them all.
"We are awaiting their response."
Minister of State for Information Affairs and official government spokeswoman Sameera Rajab yesterday confirmed that a petition from pharmacies had been presented to the Cabinet.
She said the Health Ministry would meet with pharmacy owners to discuss the matter further. - TradeArabia News Service