Medicine are arranged on a shelf inside in a pharmacy in Cairo, Egypt, November 17, 2016. (Reuters)
Egypt's Pharmacists Syndicate said on Sunday that its members would go on full strike on 12 February nationwide if their demands – at the top of which is a reversal of the recent health ministry decision to raise the prices of 3,000 medications – are not met by 10 February.
The syndicate said that it decided in its general assembly that pharmacies would sell medications at the old pricing system till 10 February, and that they would not buy any new medicines from suppliers at the new pricing system during this period.
On 12 January, the health minister issued a decision increasing the prices of 3,000 medications out of 12,000 currently available on the market, including some medications for chronic illnesses.
Egypt has been facing difficulties in importing medicines and components used in the local manufacturing of pharmaceuticals following the pound flotation in November.
“To preserve profit margins for pharmacists [when re-pricing] in accordance with previous ministerial decisions, the margin should be no less than 23 percent for local medications and no less than 15 percent for imported medications, increasing to 25 percent and 18 percent, sticking to Decree 499,” the statement read.
Foreign and domestic pharmaceutical companies, as well as the profit margin of pharmacies on any medicine, are regulated by Decree 499 of 2012 and enforced by the health ministry.
The syndicate called for a protest in front of the health ministry and called on the political leadership to cancel the health minister's decision, which it says allows “intruders into the pharmacy profession.”
They also called for stopping “suspicious” campaigns against pharmacists in Egypt.
Following the ministry’s decision, the syndicate postponed a planned partial strike for two weeks after voting in December for a partial closure of pharmacies from 9am till 3pm, starting from 15 January, over what it called “the random pricing policy.”
The syndicate said in December that price hikes would not help provide unavailable medicines, as manufacturing companies will likely make “certain types of medicines that are in high demand so as to make more profits.”
On 1 January, the health minister said during a cabinet meeting that “to resolve the issue, the ministry will increase prices and overcome shortages in the short-term, develop state-owned pharmaceutical factories in the medium-term, and expand the pharmaceutical industry in Egypt in the long-term.”
During the meeting, President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi said that the supply of medicines must be increased to end the country’s ongoing shortage.
Manufacturers have said the retail price of medicines needs to be raised so that they do not incur losses amid changes in the value of the pound.
The Central Bank of Egypt floated the local currency in early November, which slashed its value by half against the dollar, resulting in price hikes, especially for imported goods.