RETAIL pharmacists are concerned with Health and Child Care Minister’s threats of revoking their licenses should they continue overcharging medications while taking foreign currency from customers.
By Kudakwashe Pembere
Health Minister Dr Obadiah Moyo is on record warning retail pharmacies to stop overcharging and pricing medicines in foreign currency.
“We are concerned with the Minister’s statements in the media and we are going to pay a courtesy call to the Minister and his Permanent Secretary so that we get clear communication on what he intends to do. We will first as a committee meet up and discuss this before meeting with the minister,” Retail Pharmacists Association secretary Mr Luckmore Bunu told HealthTimes on Saturday.
He noted that this is the first time the Minister has issued such threats and this is the second time he has delivered such a chilly warning. Last year in October, Dr Moyo issued a similar threat as well as last month.
He said that they will come up with a position following their meeting with the Minister. Mr Bunu also argued that it should be understood that the retail pharmacies supply chain ends with them.
“The Retail Pharmacists Association (RPA) position is that retail pharmacies are not overcharging. Most of our medicines are imported and as retailers we are at the last end of the value chain, we inherit prices,” he said.
On Friday, the Health Minister fired another salvo at pharmacies saying he is not reluctant to take away the pharmacies’ licenses.
As such retail pharmacies risk losing their licenses should they continue overcharging medicines while simultaneously charging in foreign currency.
Speaking to journalists on Friday, the Health Minister said they are keeping a close eye on them.
“I might as well say we are going to be checking on the private pharmacies and ensure that they are adhering to the set prices. We don’t want a situation where people are overcharged. Where there is a continuous hiking of prices of drugs.
“And at the same time we also want to advice the retailers that they should not charge in foreign currency. We have heard that some are charging in foreign currency,” he said.
He added that they have no time to waste in taking away the licenses from the unscrupulous pharmacies.
“The law says we pay in RTGS Zimbabwean Dollars and that is what should be adhered do. All those who are charging in US$ are doing an illegal act and at the same time we are looking out. We will not hesitate to withdraw licenses of those who continue doing unlawful acts,” said the Minister.
Pharmaceutical Society of Zimbabwe Mr Portiphar Mwendera said it was unfortunate that the pharmaceutical sector ought to comply with mark-ups by the National Income and Pricing Commission in 2003.
“The issue of pricing will maybe come through the Ministry of Industry and Trade. In 2003 they came through the National Income and Pricing Commission which regulated the markups of prices that should prevail. I will be forthcoming and say that the regulations that they set up then, the markups they set up in 2003 are the ones that are still in effect to this day which is a markup of up to 50 percent for retailers, 20 percent for manufacturers, 20 percent for distributors. That is what was set up in 2003,” he said.
However, on the ground, the sector seem to be flouting the pricing regulation in the pretext of a turbulent economy.
“But what is happening in Zimbabwe is that pricing across all sectors is just distorted when you compare with other regions. And this is maybe due to other economic factors which we need to deal with at a broader front,” Mr Mwendera said.