President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi discussed in a Tuesday meeting with Prime Minster Sherif Ismail issues relating to health care amid an ongoing medicine shortage crisis, emphasising that medicine prices in pharmacies should be reasonable and commensurate with citizens’ income.
Ismail said the government is coordinating with pharmaceutical companies to increase the market supply of varied medicines, a presidential statement read.
The medicine shortage crisis has escalated in recent months, especially as medicines for treating life-threatening illnesses have become largely unavailable in the market. The government decided to provide $181m for purchasing 146 types of drugs that have no alternatives in the Egyptian market to resolve part of the shortage.
The minister of health suggested imposing a 50% increase annually on 10% of all pharmaceutical products, with pledges to reduce the fees for customs, water, electricity, and gas, in addition to an exemption from the value-added tax. However, companies rejected the suggestion, so the minister proposed increasing prices every six months, rather than every year.
This also comes as the Pharmacists Syndicate called for collective strikes in January in objection to not obtaining higher profit margins, without which they believe their pharmacies would face hardship. However, the Pharmacists Syndicate noted that they did not want an increase in profit margins to affect customers.
The syndicate said that it was impossible to remain calm and watch medicine companies prevent pharmacists from increasing their profit margins, which they say would affect the profits of pharmaceutical companies, not that of the customer.
The syndicate cited previous court verdicts, arguing that the profit margin has been the same for over the last 30 years.
The syndicate further demanded the establishment of a committee under the supervision of the president to include all the institutions concerned with manufacturing medicine in Egypt to control the cost of medication.
The market has suffered from an acute shortage of imported medication amid the decision of the Central Bank of Egypt (CBE) to float the Egyptian pound early in November. The decision led to a significant increase in the cost of importing and producing medication.