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Ministry slashes prices of 280 medicines in UAE

Asma Ali Zain/deputy Chief Reporter
Filed on January 26, 2015

Reduction of prices between 6% and 55% to be applicable from February 1

Dubai - The Ministry of Health (MoH) has reduced the prices of 280 drugs for a wide range of diseases from between six and 55 per cent.

The new prices will be applicable on the medicines from February 1, announced a senior official.

Dr Amin Hussein Al Amiri, Assistant Undersecretary for public health at the ministry, said this was the fifth such initiative taken by the ministry over the past four years.

“This reduction will help 80 per cent of the population who spends out of their pocket at private pharmacies as compared to the 20 per cent who have health insurance cover,” said Dr Amiri.

Dr Amiri, who is also head of the licensing and vice-chairman of the Drug Pricing and Registration Higher Committee, said the initiative was taken voluntarily by pharmaceutical companies.

“This initiative is due to our strategic partnership … we had requested for a reduction in prices for 440 drugs but the industry agreed on only 280, which is fine,” he said.

Majority of the price reductions will be on medicines for infections (86), followed by muscoskeletal and joint diseases (52), gastrointestinal (35) and medicines for respiratory diseases (31) among a number of others - all by leading pharmaceutical firms.

The biggest price reduction was done in June 2013 when the prices of 6,791 innovative medicines were slashed. Another big reduction was in 2011 when prices of 565 innovative medicines were reduced.

“We did not find any errors or reluctance from pharmacies in implementing these price changes,” said Dr Amiri.

Dr Yacoub Haddad, Chairman, Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers Association, Gulf (PhrMAG), said: “Our goal is to make things better for patients. It is sometimes a difficult decision to reduce prices but we are doing it.”

“We also want to ensure that the UAE market has competitive prices as 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, Dr Amiri said. “However, 40 per cent are (the) highest priced...but we are coming to an agreement with the companies to reduce these prices as well.”

Currently, a number of medicines in the UAE are among the highest priced in the region with differences ranging up to 100 per cent from its strongest competitor, Saudi Arabia.

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.

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