Cost of drugs shoots up

HARARE - The medicines industry in Zimbabwe has been affected by foreign currency shortages which have seen the cost of drugs go up.

At the same time, medical aid societies are on a collision course with pharmacists as they blame each other for non-payment and price inconsistencies.

While health insurers have rung alarm bells over claims of a 70 percent increase in medicines, pharmacists on the other said they were trying to manage the situation as best as they could by constantly engaging the Reserve Bank for a firmer solution.

Pharmaceutical retailers told the Daily News on Sunday that some of the increases have been unavoidable as suppliers have increased their prices.

Retail Pharmacists Association chairperson Barbara Muwanigwa said: “As you are aware our prices are based on a set mark up, we have a standard mark up. So in the end our prices are affected by the manufacture and wholesalers prices. If they increase the prices, ours also go up.

“Trade terms with our suppliers have been changed to cash upfront from credit terms.”

In a statement during the week, Association of Healthcare Funders of Zimbabwe (AHFoZ), which represents the country’s medical aid societies, said most pharmacies had increased the price of drugs by between 30 percent and 70 percent over the past three weeks.

This had resulted in huge shortfalls for medical aid society members with some pharmacies rejecting medical aid cards and insisting on cash payments in United States dollars, while rejecting payment in bond notes or by debit card or Ecocash.

“Price increases or demands for cash at the point of service in the current environment where salaries are not being increased and hard cash is unavailable, can only worsen the suffering of patients,” the statement said.

However, the Pharmaceutical Society of Zimbabwe (PSZ) which represents the interests of pharmacists in Zimbabwe said the health insurers were exaggerating issues to create despondency.

“No medical aid cards are being rejected except those that are in serious arrears, which is not something new. No pharmacy is asking for United States dollars because if they were no one would be getting medical services since there is a severe shortage of the currency in the country,” Pharmaceutical Society of Zimbabwe President Sikhumbuzo Mpofu said.

“Though prices of medicines have marginally gone up, it is not as high as 70 percent as it being quoted in the media. Our community pharmacists have not increased margins since time immemorial and have even reduced these in a bid to improve health outcomes of the nation as exemplified by reduction in mark ups on ARVs, insulin for diabetes and anti-cancer medicines whose margins are as low as 10 percent.

“All stakeholders are encouraged to exercise restraint when issuing out statements to the media otherwise some pronouncements may cause chaos.”

Mpofu said they are going to continue engaging monetary authorities to ensure a constant, affordable and stable supply of critical medicines to the nation.

“This engagement process was borne out of the realisation that forex shortages are not a RBZ challenge but is our challenge as a nation and as such it calls for responsible leadership in various sectors of the economy to come together to craft ways to scale up our import substitution measures, increase exports as well explore ways of increasing forex inflows.”

Wholesalers, who spoke to the Daily News on Sunday said the prices are also being pushed by suppliers.

“For us, our prices are determined by suppliers as well. We get the drugs from local and foreign suppliers. Our payments are done through the formal channel, we cannot all blame it on the forex issue, we are getting some, though not as before,” Greenwood Wholesalers general manager Valerie Musere said.

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