Govt reins in pharmaceutical companies

PHARMACEUTICAL companies will soon be required to come up with a reasonable model of drug pricing to provide transparency in the sector and protect consumers.

Announcing austerity measures for fiscal discipline, Thursday while presenting the 2019 National Budget, Finance and Economic Development Minister Professor Mthuli Ncube, said this was in response to complaints that pharmacists were charging outlandish prices for drugs while others demanded United States Dollars upfront.

The finance minister accused pharmacies for profiteering at the expense of vulnerable people, adding that to bring sanity in the sector, manufactures would have to come up with maximum recommended retail prices agreeable to wholesalers and retailers.

“Notwithstanding assistance availed to the industry, retail prices of pharmaceutical products, in particular, drugs for treatment of chronic ailments, have increased and are either quoted in United States Dollars, or four times the same amount, if payment is through electronic funds transfer or bond notes.

“The unscrupulous profiteering at the expense of patients who cannot afford is inhumane, catastrophic and deprives citizens of basic human rights as enshrined in the Constitution,” Prof Ncube said.

In its part, the finance minister claimed government would continue to prioritise allocation of foreign currency for purchase of raw materials, in order to make sure critical drugs were available.

In the same vein, pharmaceuticals must come up with one model pricing system, Prof Ncube said

“As a quid pro quo, pharmaceutical manufacturers shall be required to publish the Maximum Recommended Retail Price agreed among manufacturers, wholesalers and retailers.

Whilst this measure is intended to provide transparency in the pricing of essential drugs, it should, thus, not be misconstrued as price control,” Prof Ncube emphasised.

He, however, pointed out, the government would provide an oversight role, in order to make sure that the above conditions are adhered to.

“In recognition of the significance of the pharmaceutical manufacturing industry, Government has already provided for a rebate of duty facility on essential raw materials imported for manufacture by the industry.

“The Facility has, thus, assisted in the promotion of linkages with the packaging, distribution and marketing industries, thereby boosting employment. The industry is in the process of registering new products, hence, I propose to expand the list of essential raw materials for manufacture under rebate of duty, with effect from 1 January,” noted the finance minister.

Before the budget presentation, the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) had said it would investigate pharmaceutical companies that demanded foreign currency from clients yet would have received US dollars from the central bank to import drugs.

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