High cost of drugs to hurt Universal Health Care, warns expert

Senate Health Committee Chairman Michael Mbito (left) chats with World Bank Lead Health Specialist Dr.Khama Rogo on the health care financing and achieving UHC at Red Cross building on Tuesday. [Boniface Okendo, Standard]
The high cost of locally manufactured medicinal drugs has been cited as one of the challenges that will undermine the state’s Universal Health Care program.

Khama Rogo, a Lead Health Specialist with the World Bank said the long supply chain involved in the purchase of the pharmaceutical drugs is to blame for their exorbitant prices of the products.

Speaking before the Senate Health Committee Tuesday, Rogo said that over 90 percent of the essential drugs required for program to work can are manufactured locally and it will be important to do away with the lengthy supply process.

 “Of the 45 pharmaceutical companies in the East Africa region, 35 are in Kenya. Surprisingly the essential drugs Kenya exports are cheaper compared to the prices the same items are sold to local hospitals,” he said.

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Universal Health Care is one of the pillars of President Uhuru Kenyatta’s Big Four Agenda.  After being sworn into office, the Head of State pledged to provide affordable Health care to all Kenyans during his second and final term.

“If we want to lower the prices of the drugs, the government needs to buy the drugs directly from the manufacturers and not agents as it is done now,” explained Dr Rogo, who is also the Head of the World Bank’s Health in Africa Initiative.

During the meeting with members of the Trans-Nzoia Senator Michael Mbito-led committee, it also emerged that construction of more hospitals by county governments may pose as a challenge to the delivery of the program.

Rogo, who is also a former President of the Kenya Medical Association told the senators that records show that over 2,000 health facilities are not in operation due to lack of medicalpersonnel.

“The government should put an embargo on building new health facilities until those in existence are put into good use and have adequate human resource,” he proposed.

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 Apart from the chairperson Mbito, Nominated Senators Beth Mugo, Petronilla  Lokorio and Naomi Masista were present at the meeting.

Dr Mbito said the committee will invite the World Bank Health expert for another session next week, where he will give his views on financing for the key program of the Jubilee government.

Universal Health CareKhama RogoWorld Bank