Drug firm to supply medications at lower rates
Manama, July 3, 2014
An international drug manufacturer has reportedly agreed to continue supplying medications to Bahrain, after agreeing to lower pharmaceutical rates imposed by the government.
It follows shortages of certain medications in Bahraini pharmacies such as Lipitor, which reduces cholesterol levels in patients, said a report in the Gulf Daily News (GDN), our sister publication.
The manufacturer was allegedly withholding supplies after initially balking at lower prices that came into effect in May bringing rates in line with the rest of the GCC.
"We have been notified by the Pfizer dealer in Bahrain - Yousuf Mahmood Hussain Company - that Pfizer has agreed on the unified GCC pricing," National Health Regulatory Authority (NHRA) chief executive officer Dr Baha Eldin Fateha told the GDN.
"They said they were in agreement with the GCC price reduction and advised their agents to release their drugs to the Bahrain market.
"According to them, the process is already on and the shortage reported on these drugs will soon be resolved."
Pfizer apparently complained that one of its agents in the GCC was not notified about the price changes, also affecting supplies of Viagra and Celebrex.
A spokesman for Gulf Pharmacy said all drug shortages had been resolved except for Euthyrox, a thyroid medication supplied by Merck.
"This is supplied by Merck and we are yet to hear on their decision to release Euthyrox in the market," he said.
Yousuf Mahmood Hussain Company assistant general manager Nizar Saifuddin confirmed the drug Lipitor had been missing from shelves in Bahrain after the price drop.
However, he said it had again been made available in Bahrain's pharmacies since Saturday.
"The medicine has been released into the market and most of the pharmacies now have the drug," he told the GDN.
"Yes there was a shortage of Lipitor after the drastic price reduction by the government in May.
"This wasn't unique as many pharmaceutical companies in Bahrain had issues regarding the price reduction on some medicines.
"The multinational manufacturers who accepted the majority of the price reductions had refused to release some medicines at the reduced price.
"As we know it was a GCC decision, so they had to resolve it with GCC officials - negotiations were going on and now we have learnt it has been resolved."
He revealed another drug facing similar shortages was Voltaren from Novartis, but added that was released back into the market this week.
"The medicine was agreed to be released since Tuesday and will be available in pharmacies within two days," he said.
He added only pharmacies that kept a small stock of the withheld medications were affected, since others had sufficient stock to continue supplying their customers.
"Among almost 100 pharmacies to which we distribute, there are smaller pharmacies that usually don't keep such high-priced drugs in their stock," said Saifuddin.
"Some pharmacies have pending payment issues and we release medicines only on cash payment, so they opt not to take some drugs.
"But people who find drugs are not available in a pharmacy next to their house immediately report it to the NHRA on their hotline and thus the issue is made big."
Dr Al Fateha reassured patients last month that while major drugs for treating diabetes, high blood pressure, heart conditions, thyroid problems and high cholesterol were either out of stock or running low, but "hundreds of other alternatives" were available from different manufacturers.
At the time he blamed "logistical" problems faced by local agents for shortages.
Meanwhile, Jaffar Pharmacy, Al Aali Pharmacy, Awal Pharmacy and Leena Pharmacy all said they were still awaiting delivery of Pfizer's Lipitor drug yesterday.
Price reductions on the most commonly used medications were announced in January and pharmacies were given until May 15 to ensure a new pricing structure, which also reduced their profit margins, was in place.
It was part of a multi-phased plan to unify the cost of medications across the GCC.
Prices of antibiotics, skin medications and drugs used by HIV/Aids patients are also due to be reduced in October. - TradeArabia News Service