Paidamoyo Chipunza Senior Health Reporter
Government has started working on curbing cartels in the pharmaceutical sector, amid revelations that a team of Indian manufacturers will be arriving in the next few days to assess the working environment before setting up in-country warehouses, Health and Child Care Minister Dr Obadiah Moyo has said.
Presenting oral evidence to the Thematic Committee on HIV and Aids in Parliament yesterday, Dr Moyo said in the absence of a law that empowers Government to control prices of pharmaceutical products in the country, bringing competition to the market was the remaining option.
“The more companies that we are able to bring, the lower the costs will be because there will be competition.
“Talking of cartels, in the pharmaceutical industry, we will get rid of them by having more of the Indian players,” said Dr Moyo.
He said the current situation is that one agent in Zimbabwe is working with over 30 manufacturers in India, posing the risk of his monopoly overcharging desperate patients.
Dr Moyo said bringing in the Indian manufacturers to set up bonded warehouses in Zimbabwe will reduce costs.
“What we realised is that to curb unscrupulous elements in the pharmaceutical industry, we have to bring the manufacturers into the country. There is actually a team coming from India in the coming days to assess the working environment for bonded warehouses,” said Dr Moyo.
He said when these manufacturers set up warehouses in the country, Government will then negotiate favourable prices for their products, which should be lower than the ones charged by those who are bringing in the medicines on behalf of the manufacturers.
He said the bonded warehouses will be set up in conjunction with Natpharm, which is the sole procurer of Government pharmaceuticals.
“Natpharm will be able to access medicines while we work on capacitating local manufacturers, that is Caps, Datlabs, Varichem and so on.
“We want to make sure that we secure foreign currency for us to be able to buy active ingredients from India,” said Dr Moyo.
He said it was cheaper to import active ingredients that are used to produce the pharmaceuticals compared to importing finished products.
In response, chairperson of the Thematic Committee Senator Morgan Femai said his committee was pleased with how Government intended to address challenges currently bedevilling the pharmaceutical sector.
“We are happy with your presentation and response, especially the partnerships you have mentioned. We hope this will provide a relief to the people of Zimbabwe,” said Senator Femai.
The pharmaceutical industry is currently dominated by a few players who have access to products from Indian manufacturers through exclusive dealership, thereby creating market monopolies. Because of these monopolies, suppliers charge prices they deem necessary for the products and in most cases products are priced far beyond the retail price in the source country.
Some pharmacies are even charging strictly US dollars on certain drugs while the majority are pricing products according to the prevailing parallel market exchange rate.
Zimbabwe imports about 98 percent of its medicines, with the bulk of the products coming from India.