95% of medicines in UAE will be cheaper: MoH

Residents in the UAE can finally breathe a sigh of relief through their various aches and ailments, with the Ministry of Health rolling out its implementation plan following the cabinet decree last week to reduce the cost of medicines across the country by up to 40 per cent, which is scheduled to come into effect within three months.

Those pharmacies and medical institutions that don’t comply will be investigated and fined, stated the MoH.

Dr Amin Hussain Al Amiri, Asst Undersecretary for Medical Practice and License, MoH, confirmed that 6,632 medicines out of 7,053 or 95 per cent of all medicines, across all categories will now be more affordable for the common man, “making the UAE’s healthcare the cheapest in the region.”

The price cut will be across 2,101 medicines prescribed for chronic ailments, while the remaining will include non chronic types.

“We have covered 95 per cent of the medicines in the market, so nothing is going to be left out,” he stressed upon, when asked if commonly used drugs such as over the counter paraceomol or antibiotics will be part of this price cut.

He also stated that all the medicines imported by the private sector will be unified under a single currency of US dollars to avoid any pricing discrepancy.

Dr Amiri explained: “Earlier, when medicines were being imported in different currencies, the market fluctuations would sometimes end up bumping up the price that would be borne by the end consumer. We are avoiding this now to unify everything under US dollars.”

This decision was taken by the Council of Ministers chaired by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President, Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai.

The system will unify the prices of medicines with those of GCC countries, providing alternatives for every kind of medication for chronic and other diseases.

Dr Amiri explained a three-tier profit approach which will apply for pharmacies, with a 28 per cent margin for medicine priced between Dh1 and Dh250; a 24 per cent margin for medicine priced between Dh251 and Dh500; and a 20 per cent margin for above Dh500.

Meanwhile, the margin for local agents will be 15 per cent.

“This will further ensure that every arm is taken care of and we are also fuelling the local economy,” said Dr Amiri.

According to market analysts, Frost & Sullivan, the move by the UAE Cabinet to reduce the prices of is a beneficial move for the local pharmaceutical drug manufacturing industry as there will be generic options available for both,  chronic and acute diseases.

Dr Ajay Kumar Sharma, Associate Director, Pharma and Life Sciences Practice, Frost & Sullivan said the move would prove beneficial for the local economy.

In a statement, he further explained: “The real beneficiary of this move will be the patients both local citizens as well as the expats. This move will promote Asian expats to purchase medicines locally rather than buying it from their home country, as there will be marginal price difference.

“Additionally, this will boost the local consumption and off shoot the price decrease by increased volumes for the manufacturers.”

Dr Amiri added: “We reiterating to the general public that the time to shop in bulk and ship those medicines to the UAE is over. Medicines in the UAE will now be priced cheaper than any other country in the region.”

Meanwhile, residents could also be hopeful that the price cut of medicines may spill over into expensive, monthly insurance premiums.

When asked, Dr Amiri said he was hopeful.

“It is not our decision to make, but we are hopeful that lowering the cost of medicines will automatically reduce the premium. Let’s wait and see,” he said. “Our aim has always been to make healthcare affordable for our people.”

The MoH has been lobbying for a price cut across pharmaceutical drugs for years, with its efforts paying off in 2011, when it reduced the prices of 565 drugs for chronic conditions like diabetes.

(Home page image courtesy Shutterstock)

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