(formerly IRIN News) Journalism from the heart of crises

Worries over new Egyptian policy on medicines

Alaa Mohamed, a pharmacist in Cairo's middle class Dar Al Salam District, says locally-made drugs are hard to come by
Amr Emam/IRIN

A decision by the Egyptian Health Ministry to peg local medicine prices to international ones is causing concern. “This is a catastrophic decision,” Karima Al Hefnawy, a member of local NGO the Independent Right to Health Committee, told IRIN. “Egypt is a low-income country, which means that linking local medicine prices with international ones will cause suffering to the poor.”
Only about 30 percent of Egyptians have health insurance, according to a recent estimate by the NGO. Hitherto, medicine prices were set by the ministry, sometimes at much lower prices than the manufacturing cost, leading some suppliers to go out of business.
Another local NGO, The Medical Association, says of the US$10 billion spent on health last year, only about a third came from the government. The government has allocated $4 billion, or 4.8 percent of Egypt’s total budget in fiscal year 2012-2013, to the health sector. This, experts say, means that individuals will continue to foot most of the health bill in the new fiscal year.
Chairman of the Health Ministry’s medicine sector Mohsen Abdelaleem rejected the concerns, saying the higher prices would allow more pharmaceutical companies to stay in business, making medicines more widely available.

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