Oman health: Decision to postpone medicines price cut draws mixed reaction

Oman Saturday 25/June/2016 22:14 PM
By: Times News Service
Oman health: Decision to postpone medicines price cut draws mixed reaction

Muscat: Ministry of Health’s (MoH’s) decision to postpone a drugs’ price reduction in Oman has received a mixed response from residents and distributors.
Many residents in Oman are of the opinion that the government’s move is not good as the drug prices in Oman are considered one of the highest in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) region.
“I usually buy medicines from my country (India) because of the high prices here. When I heard the ministry is going to reduce the price I thought it will avoid my burden of bringing medicines from India and also save the time I spend at the airport to get the clearance, but the new report implies that my trouble will continue” said Mathew John, a diabetic patient, who has been residing in Oman for the past decade.
“When the decision to reduce the medicine prices was taken last year, we welcomed the move because it will benefit the common man like us, but the decision to postpone it is hard to believe,” Raju Bhaskar, told the Times of Oman (TOO).
“The government’s decision reflects some sense because if the drugs prices drop drastically, there is a likelihood of a medicine shortage in the country as private pharmacies might stop buying medicines in large quantities,” Appu John, a resident of Oman said.
“But when we compare the price with other GCC countries, it is much higher; so the government should take some steps to control the price,” John added.
The decision to postpone the revision in drug prices has come as a temporary relief for pharmacies in the Sultanate.
“It is a welcome step and quite wise of the Ministry of Health to hold their decision and study this project a bit more deeply, or else many small players in the sector will be in trouble,” Mohammad Osama Rawat, general manager of Oriental Pharmacy, told TOO.
“Oman is a much different market than other GCC countries. The cost of operation is much higher due to a big area and comparatively smaller market in terms of turnover,” Rawat added.
Unifying the price in the GCC countries is a good way to tackle the price issue, he said.
“I would always honour the MoH’s decision, but do not understand how we can manage it when all other related overheads and the turnover are not the same in all GCC countries,” Rawat stated.
“Government’s decision to reduce the price is good for retailers, but it will be a nightmare for the wholesalers,” another official at a pharmacy in Muscat said.
“Service costs are higher in Oman than in any other place and reducing the profit margin will affect distributors badly and this had made us approach the ministry, and to request a further study of the details of the impact of the price revision before implementing the decision,” he added.
MoH had decided to postpone the implementation of the medicine price revision in May too, which was aimed at cutting the profit margin of a large number of medicine sellers in the Sultanate.
In November 2015, the ministry said prices of 4,246 drugs registered in the Sultanate will be reduced from January 2016, but later postponed it to June 2016.
According to a latest circular issued to all private pharmacies and stores, the new prices would come into effect after the enforcement of the Pharmacy Practice Law.
The ministry’s decision to reduce the prices of medicines is not the first of its kind in the Omani market in the recent past. This was the third time such a decision was made, which covers the largest number of drugs.
Such a decision was first taken in October 2014 when prices of 1,400 drugs were reduced. The second time was in June last year, when prices of around 1,180 drugs were slashed.