UAE forces pharma to cut prices on 280 meds as weak oil prices hit

SINGAPORE--Beginning next month, 26 international drugmakers will be earning less in the United Arab Emirates from many of their drugs. The companies negotiated a deal with the country's Ministry of Health in the latest reduction to drug prices, with one unfortunate product's price forced down by 55%.

The drugmakers managed to persuade officials to strike 200 drugs from the price-reduction list, but 280 still remain.

PhRMAG chair Yacoub Haddad

It could have been worse. The Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers Association, which negotiates for its members, has faced mandated price cuts on as many as 6,791 branded drugs in one year. Chairman Yacoub Haddad, who attended the announcement of the new round, acknowledged the process was painful. The UAE's 2,000 pharmacies were also involved in the negotiations.

The government's pricing decision, analysts said, was spurred in part by weak global prices for benchmark crude oil. Those prices have dropped more than 50% in the past 6 months for Brent and West Texas Intermediate as a global supply glut grows.

Amin Hussain Al Amiri

Amin Hussain Al Amiri, assistant secretary for public health, said the cuts are necessary because 80 percent of the population lack insurance coverage for their medicines. Haddad also said his members realize the prices need to be at levels competitive with those in other Gulf states.

The largest category of drugs with prices headed down are those for infections at 86, followed by musculoskeletal and joint diseases with 52, gastrointestinal with 35 and respiratory meds at 31. The range of the depth of the cuts was from 6% to 55%.

The affected drugs were spread unevenly among drug companies. The number of drugs each had to put on the block ranged from one to 51. The prices for some already had been lowered in previous rounds of reductions, which began in 2010.

- here's the Khaleej Times' take
- get more from The Gulf Today