By: Madhuparna Bhattacharjee

MUSCAT: Oman will see a five to 60 per cent drop in prices of over 1,400 pharmacological drugs from October 1 when the first phase of the GCC-wide unified price policy comes into effect.

Prices of drugs in Oman and Kuwait are the highest in the region, an official from the Ministry of Health (MoH) has said.

In the first phase, which comes into effect from Wednesday, prices of five pharmacological drug groups have been reduced and the drop ranges from five per cent to 60 per cent, depending on the products,” Dr Mohammed al Rubaie, director of drugs control in MoH told Muscat Daily.

The drugs relate to cardiovascular, endocrine, gastrointestinal, musculo-skeletal and skin ailments. “People with chronic diseases like diabetes, hypertension or similar ailments where one needs to take medicines life long, will benefit from this price revision. This should also ensure that people do not skip medicines just because of their cost,” he added.

“Oman imports around 4,000 drugs from various parts of the world. Of these, prices of 1,404 medicines have been reduced in the first phase, and the remaining would be achieved maximum by the first quarter of 2015.”

According to Dr Rubaie, the idea behind the policy is to ensure price stability and availability of medicines, mainly branded drugs.

“The first discussion [on unified drug pricing] was held in 2012, when officials including health ministers from all GCC countries raised the issue of huge price differences in the region.”

“Drug prices in the region are the highest in Oman and Kuwait. Some big markets have lesser prices; the rates being the cheapest in Saudi Arabia. So, there was a need to standardise the prices.”

The policy has been implemented by standardising cost, insurance and freight (CIF), using the US dollar as the uniform currency. “This will also cut profit margins and keep them under 45 per cent of CIF,” Dr Rubaie, said adding that while CIF will remain standard, profit margins could differ. “Drugs that are being imported will see more reduction compared to those manufactured locally, considering the transportation cost factor.”

“Any agent or pharmacy found violating the new rule will be dealt with sternly. People can check the prices – old and revised – available on the MoH website www.moh.gov.om/en/nv_menu.php?o=drug_prices/dp.html They can call the ministry if they find they are being cheated by pharmacies,”he said.

MoH inspection teams will report pharmacies found flouting the rule to the violation committee set up for this purpose.