‘Pharmacies inflating drugs prices’

HARARE – Pharmacies are inflating the prices of drugs particularly those for diabetes, making them unaffordable for most patients, the Zimbabwe Diabetic Association (ZDA) has said.

Appealing to government through health advisor to President Robert Mugabe and Cabinet Timothy Stamps, the association’s president, John Mangwiro, said there was need for urgent intervention by the authorities.

“…drugs are very expensive in Zimbabwe,” he said at a doctors and nurses training in Harare yesterday.

“We are lobbying the drug companies, for instance Novartis Pharmaceuticals (Novartis)… we have appealed to them to reduce prices of the useful drugs for example DPP4 inhibitors,” Mangwiro said.

“When they (Novartis) got the drugs (DPP4 inhibitors) into the country, they were as much as $80 but they have reduced the price to $5 for a month’s supply,” he said.

Mangwiro said “in the process, we find that even if the drugs are now cheap, when they get distributed in our private pharmacies it’s difficult to control prices because a drug for $5 will end up in a pharmacy in Harare being as much as $25 to $30. Where do we get such prices? So we need to engage pharmacists as well and ask them why they are behaving in such a manner”.

“…help us in engaging…the pharmacists so that we see the same cause and understand that preventing diabetes today will save a lot of lives,” he pleaded.

Diabetes is a life-long health condition that occurs when the amount of glucose (sugar) in the blood is too high because the body cannot use it properly.

If left untreated, the high blood glucose levels can cause serious health complications.

It is increasingly becoming a major silent killer, with the World Health Organisation projecting it to be the number seven killer in the world by 2030.

About ten percent of Zimbabwe’s 13 million-plus population is estimated to be living with diabetes — translating to around 1, 4 million people.

Mangwiro said Novartis — currently training health professionals in the country on diabetes diagnosis, trends and treatment — was prepared to provide non-communicable diseases NDCs (including diabetes) medicines at subsidised prices.

“… they have done it in Ethiopia and in Kenya, where they say per month a patient will pay a $1 for whatever drugs they need for NCDs.

“What they need is our total statistics so if we give them the statistics, they will subsidise the drugs for us,” he said.

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