Why Kenya wants to regulate drug prices

Kenya plans to keep the cost of drugs and treatment the same in every district in the country if the Ministry of Health’s proposed policy draft that will regulate the price of essential medicines gets implemented.

In 2016, concerns began to grow over inflated drug prices. It was discovered that international pharmaceutical companies and their local agents, are making Kenyans pay inflated prices for life-saving medication.

According to the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) findings, Kenyans are paying as much as 5,000 percent more for medicines and treatment in public hospitals. Discoveries show that the average wholesale price of a packet of 10 tablets of antibiotic costs Sh1,500 in the United Kingdom but in Kenya, it costs at least Sh9,500. Even within the country, drugs are over-priced.

A bacterial infection dose containing 14 tablets is sold by government-owned medical logistics company in Nairobi, Kenya Medical Supplies Agency (KEMSA) for Sh840, meanwhile, that same drug goes for Sh1,300 at Mombasa’s Coast General Hospital and it is sold for Sh2,400 at Nakuru Level Five Hospital.

With these price difference, Kenya’s Pharmacy and Poisons Board, which regulates the pharmaceutical industry, called on international pharmaceutical companies and their local sales agents to standardize their prices to ensure that Kenyans do not pay significantly more than patients in other countries.

Reasons for the overpricing have been linked to distribution cost. When drugs are purchased from supply agencies at a subsidized cost, pharmaceutical firms increase prices by astronomical margins above the 20 percent limit permitted to cover the cost of distribution.

This price hike in the procurement and dispensing stages denies many Kenyans access to quality, affordable medical products and services, Health Cabinet Secretary Sicily Kariuki stated.