Here's why you still pay more for medicine in local chemists

By Graham Kajilwa | Monday, Sep 10th 2018 at 00:00
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Panellists at the Transform Kenya forum on healthcare at the Strathmore Business school last week. [David Gichuru, Standard]

Kenyans pay up to 400 per cent more for health services due to a low uptake of cheap generic medicines.

According to Jubilee Insurance Chief Executive Officer Julius Kipng’etich, lack of generic medicines also pushed the cost of medical insurance beyond the reach of many Kenyans.

Whereas the availability of generics in the United States stands at 86 per cent, it is only 28 per cent in Kenya.

“This, while 40 per cent of healthcare cost depends on pharmaceuticals,” said Mr Kipng’etich.

He said for the last seven years, the insurance industry had been making losses in medical covers.

Structural change

“We need structural change. Generics can reduce the cost of pharmaceuticals by 50 per cent, and insurance companies can reduce the cost of their premiums,” said Kipng’etich during the second edition of the annual Transform Kenya event organised by The Standard.

Stressing that the major challenge in the pharmaceutical industry was corruption, he said without fully adopting generics, the country’s goal to attain Universal Health Coverage (UHC) would be jeopardised.

Generic medicines are replicas of the original drugs, with the same active ingredients and usually manufactured with permission from the original producer.

According to a report by the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) released in August 2018, bacterial infection treatment kits that goes for Sh840 apiece at the Kenya Medical Supplies Authority (Kemsa) was selling at Sh1,300 at Coast General Hospital and Sh2,400 at Nakuru Referral Hospital.

In some cases, EACC found that a drug that cost Sh700 at Kemsa sold at Sh35,000.

Benefits package

Health Cabinet Secretary Sicily Kariuki said part of the responsibility the UHC team of 17 mandated to come up with a benefits package included coming up with affordable pricing of health services.

“One thing we have to be clear with pharmacists, the 400 per cent is not acceptable,” said the CS.

According to Vimal Patel, managing director of Cosmos Pharmaceutical Ltd, the only way to lower drug prices is to have more local manufacturers.

“Even when you import generics from China or the UK, you find that they are still 40 per cent more expensive than what is locally produced,” said Mr Patel.

He said pharmaceuticals were losing money through the value chain from manufacturers to the patient.

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