Prices of imported life-saving medicines are on the rise as US President Donald Trump demands foreign consumers share in paying for drug research.
“No more free lunch, for foreign countries at the expense of US pharmaceutical industry,” Trump said in May.
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Barely a month later in June the world’s third biggest pharmaceutical company, Pfizer Inc. of US, hiked the price of about 100 products.
These include the key lung-cancer treatment Xalkori, Norvasc blood-pressure pills, Lyrica pain capsules as well as the sex pill Viagra.
Trump’s speech was followed by a White House blue print demanding an end to practices, mainly by rich countries that artificially lower prices in foreign markets.
Reports by The Wall Street Journal indicated more drug companies could take cue from Pfizer to also hike their products in coming days.
Pfizer is listed as the third largest pharmaceutical company in the world after Johnson & Johnson of US and Roche of Switzerland.
The Trump plan, explains Tomas Philipson, a White House advisor, in a recent commentary will negotiate to end trade practices that artificially lower prices to capture foreign markets.
“Our trading partners should contribute their fair share of the research and development costs for new cures and therapies,” he said in reference to major pharmaceutical exporting countries.
This could worsen an already bad situation in Kenya. Currently, Kenya’s Ministry of Health is unable to meet its side of a preferential bargain with Roche for supply of the expensive breast cancer drugTrastuzumab (Herceptin).
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“Patients are being turned away at Kenyatta National Hospital because the drug is unavailable,” says David Makumi, Chairman Kenya Network of Cancer Organisations in a letter to the Health Ministry.
Through the agreement the ministry gets the drug at half the market price which is still proving expensive for Kenya.
But World Bank health specialist Dr Khama Rogo wants brokers removed from the drugmarketing chain, with government buying direct from the manufacturers. [Gatonye Gathura]