UAE launches 7th round of drug price cuts to reduce heath care costs

The UAE Ministry of Health and Prevention is announcing another round of price reductions for prescription drugs made by several dozen pharmaceutical companies around the world.

The latest price cuts are the seventh, and last, is a series of reductions, some of which were even more extensive. A look at the history of the ministry’s program shows price reductions for 565 drugs on July 1, 2011, and the biggest reduction, for 6,791 drugs, on June 1, 2013.

This latest round, the ministry said, will translate to relief of $75.9 million to consumers.

Covered drugs include drugs for gastroenterology, oncology and endocrinology fields, as well as immune-suppressant drugs and vaccines.

“In order to provide world-class health care to all and make high-quality medicines available to the poor, we have been conducting this drug price reduction drive since 2011.” Dr. Ameen Hussain Al Amiri, a ministry assistant undersecretary, said in a press statement. “With this initiative, more than 80 percent of our medicines are on a par with the prices of other GCC countries and the remaining 20 percent are slightly higher as we are trying to support the investment of international pharma companies in the UAE and also encouraging our indigenous pharmaceutical manufacturing to take off.”

Will the drug prices affect consumers?

“This initiative (has) been desired for some time, and it’s required, as UAE drug prices are high compared to those of other GCC countries.” Laila Al Jassmi, a health care professional in the UAE, told the Gulf News Journal last week. “Oil price impacts in the past few months and high health care prices make it difficult for low-income people to have a good quality of health care services.”

Al Jassmi said that although in some cases, the government will pay for medical care, many Emiratis will pay through their insurance policies.

While the drug price reductions are impressive, they are by no means the only steps  the UAE government is taking to promote health care within the country.

Irving Stackpole, who works with a company that has consulted the UAE government on health care initiatives, said the government wants to do two things - first, attract more consumers from around the world, and secondly, stem the flow of native citizens going to other countries for health care services.

“They'd rather have the services be provided and consumed locally.” Stackpole said.

As for the success of the drug reduction program, Stackpole suggested more would have to be done to really take more health care services inside the country.

“There’s still a robust stream of consumers traveling to foreign countries to get medical care.” Stackpole said.

One thing the government has done, Stackpole said, is the creation of strategic partnerships with international brands such as Queen's University Belfast, GE Healthcare and other foreign companies.

“Dubai wants to be recognized globally as a health care leader.” Stackpole said.

Many reports show UAE’s leadership looking to build out the nation’s health care industry.

Reducing prescription drug prices at a time when inflated drug prices are causing outrage in other parts of the world, might be a good step.

Organizations in this Story

United Arab Emirates Ministry of Health

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