Egypt's health minister Ahmed Emad El-Din (Photo: Al-Ahram)
Egypt's Pharmacists Syndicate has called off a strike planned for 12 February after reaching an agreement on its demands with the country's health minister.
In statements to the press on Monday, syndicate spokesman Ahmed Abu Doma said the union would also suspend protests previously planned for Monday, after a deal was reached with the government in a meeting on Sunday with Minister of Health and Population Ahmed Emad El-Din Rady.
In an official statement on Monday, the union published a list of demands which were agreed to by the health minister.
These included a call on the ministry to issue a decree to withdraw all expired medications from the market for a year, without conditions.
The syndicate had argued recently announced price hikes in medication should not go into effect without an order from the Ministry of Health that obligates companies to witthdraw all expired medicines that threaten the health of patients from the market.
Rady has been under fire from the Pharmacists Syndicate, who threatened in the past weeks to hold a nationwide strike after the ministry announced on 12 January an increase in the prices of 3,000 medications — out of 12,000 currently available on the market. The 3,000 items included some medications prescribed to treat chronic illnesses.T
Rady also agreed to implement pricing decree no 499 of 2012 on drugs that saw price increases twice - in May 2016 and January 2017, respectively - and consider implementing the decree on all drugs within six months.
Pricing decree no 499 was announced by the Ministry of Health to set and regulate medication prices for both foreign and domestic pharmaceutical companies. The decree also set the profit margin for pharmacies on every medication.
The Central Bank’s decision to float the Egyptian pound against the dollar in November last year has exaserpated a medication shortage crisis in Egypt, involving a shortage in essential drugs and drastic price increases.
The minister also agreed to re-implement ministerial decree 2000 which ensures the right for the Pharmacists Syndicate and its branches in other governorates to approve licenses for pharmacies.
According to the syndicate’s statement, Rady said he appreciates the role that pharmacists play in health care and affirms that the ministry will not harm the profession.
The ministry and the syndicate also agreed to coordinate on all future problems as they arise, before escalating to strikes, the statement read.