Govt to buy drugs for its hospitals in bid to slash prices

May 20, 2017 00:00 AM Bishnu Prasad Aryal

Private sector charging up to 2,200 pc higher than company prices 
KATHMANDU, May 20: In a bid to provide medicines  to the general public at cheaper rates, the Ministry of Health (MoH) is planning to itself  procure and supply  medicines  for  government hospitals and health institutions across the country.

According to  MoH,  medicines and medical equipment cost up to 2,200 percent higher  than the prices charged by the manufacturing companies. The medicines will become available at prices that are  up to 22 times cheaper once the government takes care of the procurement.

There are over 4,100 government health institutions, including 110 hospitals, 203 primary health centers and 3,789 health posts, across this country of 28.7 million people. Medicines and medical equipment worth about Rs 20 billion are  imported annually for government health institutions. The government also spends more than Rs 17 billion every year on the purchase of medicines produced by  domestic manufacturers.

Health Minister Gagan Thapa told Republica that the government is planning to purchase medicines and equipment for  government facilities directly from the manufacturers. “At present, people are forced to pay up to 2,200 percent more than the actual cost,” said Thapa adding, “As we will be purchasing directly from the manufacturers,  people will be paying the cheapest rates.” he said. 

However, the existing rules and regulations do not allow the purchase of medicines directly from manufacturers. “The cabinet has formed a committee  to study the matter and recommend solutions to the legal problems,” said Minister Thapa. “Once the recommendations are in, regulations necessary for making procurements  directly from the manufacturers will be formulated,” he added.

As  MoH moved to purchase directly from  manufacturers, some drugs  importers protested and staged sit-ins. They have threatened to halt the import and supply of medicines to the market.

“It's a kind of syndicate prevalent in the health sector,” said  MoH officials. “If we have our own pharmacies at government hospitals, we can buy and supply the medicines at cheaper rates,” they said.

Health Minister Thapa said  the protest against the government decision to buy medicines from manufacturers was meant to perpetuate a sort of monopoly and cheat the public. “The ministry treats it as a crime and will take necessary legal action,” he added. “However,  medicine importers and suppliers will not be hindered from procuring  and selling medicines  in the market.”

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