Medicinal puzzle

Muna Al Fuzai
Muna Al Fuzai

Medicine was the hot topic of the weekend on social media, after reports about drugs worth KD 306 million missing from ministry of health stores due to lack of control and database records. If the news is true, then an immediate investigation must be opened because this is a tragedy and whoever benefited from such acts must be held accountable and legally responsible. Even small baqalas retain records of items sold, and the public has every right to complain over such carelessness and waste. The subject of drugs in Kuwait deserves attention and should not be left to chance, because it touches everyone’s lives, whether citizens or expatriates.

The demand for drugs in the GCC is increasing steadily because of population growth and rising standards of living, which leads to higher levels of obesity and increase in chronic diseases like blood pressure, heart illnesses and others, so talk about drugs and demand for it is not surprising, but a pressing need. Everything related to medicine is news. According to some studies, the GCC will be spending around $10 billion by 2020 on drugs. This is a large amount indeed.

Everyone feels that Kuwait is the most expensive place for medicines compared to other Gulf countries. If we compare drug prices in Kuwait with Saudi Arabia, we will find that there is a vast difference in prices. Some people deliberately buy their medications from there, even if it’s necessary to go to Khafji to buy medicine daily. Actually, it confirms that the high prices of drugs form a heavy burden on patients.

Although the government in Kuwait dominates the pharmaceutical sector with government hospitals, prices of medicines are high in Kuwait, which is undeniable. The ministry of health has repeatedly announced its intention to reduce prices of a number of essential drugs by 5 percent, with a review of medicine prices every six months.

It is known that about three-quarters of the drugs that are used in Kuwait are imported from overseas. I wonder why we are not taking setting up a medicine industry here into consideration. It is remarkable that the world is heading into generic medicine that is unbranded and not protected by property rights, and the focus on research, development and the attractiveness of the industry itself is important to investors. This is a business and a very successful and needed field too.

In Oct 2014, the Oxford Business Group released a report stating that the pharmaceutical industry in Jordan reached an important regional mark that has enabled it to export its products to the Gulf states. Jordan today is the biggest source of drugs in the Arab world, according to data from the World Trade Organization, and exported medicines worth $308 million in the half the first of 2014. Although the industry is still relatively small in Jordan, it continues to expand at a rapid rate. This is impressive and the GCC must support its activities and collaborate with it.

The unification of prices in the Gulf states will reduce the prices of medicines for patients as well as minimize complaints, leading to better provision of medicines in all states. Unification of prices would contribute to eliminating the phenomenon of counterfeit or contraband medicines and will aid the recovery of the pharmaceutical market in the private sector. The decision to reduce the prices of drugs will certainly be in the patients’ interest and will contribute to the improvement of pharmaceutical services in Kuwait.

There are several factors behind the differences in the prices of medicines in the GCC including the number of pharmaceutical distributors in each country associated with the rate of profitability, as well as the currency itself, which has a clear impact on selling prices. So we find that Saudi Arabia is a huge market compared to other markets in the GCC like Kuwait. However, unification of prices will be in the interest of the consumer, who is suffering from the price differences.

The ministry’s plan to reduce the prices of medicines is a corrective step and media has an obligation to firmly support such moves. Medicine is a field that must not be taken for granted.

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