Drug prices skyrocket

Herald Reporters
Most pharmacies in and around the city have increased prices for medicines and they are not accepting any form of payment apart from United States dollars.

A survey conducted by The Herald revealed that most people who wanted to purchase medicines using medical aid, swipe and EcoCash were being turned away.

Most of the drugs such as Benlyn for flu were costing US$9, 4Cs US$6, Paracetamol US$1 while other drugs are selling for over US$300.

Comtrey antibiotic is now selling for $20, linctopent now costs $7 while the price of Cardura Oral drug, which is used in lowering high blood pressure in patients susceptible to strokes, heart attacks and kidney problems is now $30. The price of its alternative, Exforge, is now $25.

Quetiapine oral tablet, a prescription drug used to treat bipolar disorder, schizophrenia and depression is now costing US$300. Some private hospitals are still accepting medical aid but are “forcing” their patients to “top up” in US dollars.

Customers who spoke to The Herald castigated the increase in the prices of the drugs and the demand for payment in US dollars. “Where are we supposed to get US dollars to purchases drugs? The few pharmacies that are accepting EcoCash or swipe are ripping us off, for instance Benlyn for flu is pegged at 40 bond notes. This is unacceptable,” said one irate customer.

Another customer said she has been taking Phenobarbitone for almost 44 years and it now costs US$9 for a month supply.
“There is a time when I could get this drug for free from the hospital and it is also manufactured here in Zimbabwe. I can’t do without this drug and now it is expensive,” she said.

Phenobarbital, also known as Phenobarbitone or Phenobarb, is a medication recommended by the World Health Organisation for the treatment of certain types of epilepsy in developing countries. In the developed world it is commonly used to treat seizures in young children, while other medications are generally used in older children and adults.

At Corporate 24, a Harare family was made to pay US$20 for a drip because they are not accepting medical aid.
Last week, Government availed nearly US$7 million for the purchase of medicines, a development set to ease drug shortages and price distortions.

Some pharmacies were closed last week and those that remained open resorted to charging in US dollars while some increased their prices by up to 500 percent.

The worst affected were chronic patients whose conditions may worsen if they do not take their medication as prescribed by their medical practitioners.

In a statement, Pharmaceutical Society of Zimbabwe president Mr Portifa Mwendera applauded Government for releasing the money and for investing in Natpharm, which will increase capacity to serve the local market and also export some drugs.
“The Minister of Health and Child Care, Dr Obadiah Moyo, has advised the industry that the RBZ has allocated US$6,7 million from a total requirement of US$29 million as of yesterday (October 11),” he said.

“The importers will advise us how much the availed foreign currency can unlock closed supplier accounts and also how much medicines will be availed in due course considering that the amount released so far is still not adequate to return to normalcy.”

Mr Mwendera said the organisation was in continuous engagement with the Health Ministry as more funds were required to restore normalcy in the sector.

“The cause of the current shortage of medicines and price distortions in private pharmacies has been mainly due to the unavailability of foreign currency required to fund importation of raw materials for local production and finished products,” he said.

Mr Mwendera said the society was happy that there was also an allocation to Natpharm to fund public sector supplies and to local manufacturers so that they can also increase capacity to serve the local and export markets.

“Considering the fairly long lead time that exists in the pharmaceutical supply chain, the society will want to urge the public to remain calm during this period which has been characterised by the closure of some pharmacies and price uncertainties,” he said.

Mr Mwendera urged pharmacists to continue trading in a way that is legal and ensures that their business remains viable.

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