Prices of 188 medicines to be reduced

Dr Amiri also asked the companies to reduce the prices on a humanitarian basis.

Prices of 188 innovative medicines will be reduced with effect from January 1, the Ministry of Health announced on Thursday.

However, the exact price cuts will be announced only a week before the implementation to avoid drug shortages that have been occurring during the cuts announced by the ministry five times earlier.

At least 77 per cent of the medicines of which the prices will be reduced will include those for the central nervous system, said Dr Amin Hussain Al Amiri, Assistant Undersecretary for Public Health Policy and License Sector at the ministry. The price reduction also applies to medicines for obstetrics and gynaecology, ENT and opthalmology.

With this sixth initiative, prices of nearly all the 8,000 types of medicines registered with the ministry have been reduced by different percentages.

“I want the pharmaceutical firms to volunteer and propose the price cuts as close as possible to the GCC lowest,” said Dr Amiri, adding that the prices should be decided by September end.

Despite a number of reductions over the past four years, prices of some medicines in the UAE remain between two to 100 per cent higher than similar medicines in other GCC countries.

“At least 67 medicines are still above 50 per cent higher in the UAE as compared to other GCC countries … some are even 100 per cent higher,” he said.

“We also want to ensure that the UAE market has competitive prices compared to the world,” he added. Over 8,000 medicines are registered with the ministry and, of them, 60 per cent are the lowest priced in the GCC region. “However, 40 per cent are (the) highest priced, but we are coming to an agreement with the companies to reduce these prices, as well.”

Dr Amiri also asked the companies to reduce the prices on a humanitarian basis. “A huge population in the country is without insurance and have to buy medicines from private pharmacies. We have to keep in mind that they are paying from their own pockets,” he added.

The last cut announced by the ministry was on February 1 this year when prices of 280 drugs were reduced by six to 55 per cent. The first initiative was announced in 2011.

“We received complaints that after these announcements were made, private pharmacies stopped buying drugs in large quantities, thereby creating a shortage,” explained Dr Amiri.

Drug manufacturer Novartis agreed to reduce prices of 35 of its products followed by Pfizer (27) and GlaxoKlineSmithe (23) and others.

A price estimation study undertaken by the ministry in six countries – Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Oman, Lebanon, Jordan and the UAE – pointed to the need to bring about changes in the pricing policies.

Information in braille Soon all medicine packaging in the UAE will carry miscelleanous information for patients in braille and three other languages.

“We want patients to remain informed and so we are encouraging all drug companies to start changing the packaging of their medicines as soon as they can,” said Dr Amiri.

The proposed changes include detailed information about the medicine, tips to the patient and family as well as dosage details.

The details will be published in Arabic, English and Urdu and will also be available in QR code.