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26.07.2005 Health

National pricing policy on medicines needed - Survey

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Accra, July 26, GNA - A survey by the Ministry of Health has stressed the need for a national pricing policy on medicines, which would consider standardising mark-ups to promote equitable access, consider elements of price regulation and improve availability of medicines in the public sector.

It also called for a national pooled procurement system to procure medicines for all sectors and enable them to take advantage of economies of scale.

The survey carried out by the Ministry in collaboration with the World Health Organisation, Health Action International (HAI) and the Ghana Health Service also revealed that the unfair prices on commodities had placed the heaviest burden on the poor and the sick, who were the least able to pay from out of pocket at the point of receiving their medication.

The survey called for more consumer awareness and acceptance of good quality generic equivalents and the introduction of incentives for complying with the policy on generics.

Mr Ananga Yamylia of the GHS, Cape Coast Office, giving the key findings of the survey in Accra on Tuesday, said the absence of national policies on medicines pricing and procurement strategies had been identified as the main cause for the high prices of medicines in both public and private health sectors.

High duty charges, mark-ups, distribution costs and dispensing fees were also detected as some of the components affecting retail prices of medicines.

The survey was among other objectives to enable the Ministry to determine how affordable medicines prices were to the ordinary people, the availability of a selected list of medicines at health service outlets, determination of the level of mark-ups and how they contributed to the pricing of drugs.

It was to suggest appropriate strategies to positively influence the price and availability of medicines in the country. Prices of 30 pre-selected commonly used medicines and a list of 20 supplementary medicines was used for the survey. In all medicines, prices of innovator brand, most sold generic and lowest price generic equivalent medicines were selected for the survey.

Mr Yamylia said prices of medicines were more expensive in private pharmacies than in the public sector for the lowest priced generic whilst prices were found to be on the average more expensive in the private retail pharmacies than in the mission facilities.

"In the same way, prices were found to be more expensive in the mission facilities than in the public sector for the lowest priced generic."

He said affordability was measured by the cost of treatment in relation to the income of the lowest paid government worker adding, "medicines unaffordable to this worker will be much less affordable to a significant proportion of the population".

Mr Charles Allotey of HAI, Ghana, who was part of the survey team giving the overview of Ghana's medicines prices survey, said prices of some key medicines were rising rapidly more than others and this had a major burden on government budgets.

He said the prices of medicines were well above their production costs creating a greater scope for reduction and attributed that to the fact that many countries did not have pricing policies.

Major Courage Quashigah (rtd), Minister of Health, in a speech read for him, listed the absence of financial access to medicines for the poor as a result of a weak pricing system, the current system of taxes, tariffs and mark-ups on drugs, limited human and technological capacity of local producers, lack of cooperation among local producers as some of the barriers to accessing essential medicines.

He suggested that traditional medicines should be promoted and strengthened to increase access to medicines for the population and to improve local production capacity by way of new technologies and human resource capacity building for industries "to bring some relief to our population to access essential medicines for their health care". 26 July 05