Ministry eyes price control law to tame cost of medicines


Ms Sicily Kariuki during Horn of Africa Conference in Nairobi on October 3, 2018. PHOTO | DIANA NGILA | NMG

Kenya will control drug prices and have the cost pasted on their packaging if a Health ministry proposal is adopted.

Health secretary Sicily Kariuki said the ministry had opened talks with the Treasury to issue a Gazette notice that will give legal backing to the move.

The Health ministry is relying on a law assented to in 2011 by retired president Mwai Kibaki allowing Kenya to return to price controls of any essential commodity after the practice was abandoned in the 1990s in favour of economic liberalisation.

The law allows the Treasury secretary to set maximum prices of gazetted essential commodities upon consultation with the relevant industry.

Ms Kariuki hopes the gazette notice and pasting of prices on drugs packaging will curb the rising prices, which have become the biggest driver of increasing medical costs.

“The medicines will be labelled so there is the definite knowledge by the consumer how much they can spend for a certain drug regardless of where they are in the country,” she said.

If the Treasury agrees to issue the notice, it will be the second time that Kenya will be turning to the law to control basic good prices.

Last year, the Treasury turned to a dormant law to lower maize flour prices that had skyrocketed on severe maize shortage in the country.

The cost had hit a record high of Sh150 a packet — forcing the State to subsidise maize cost and put a cap on the packed two-kilogramme of the staple food at Sh90.

Retailers found selling a good above the gazetted price risk a fine of Sh1 million or a five-year jail term.

Ms Kariuki reckons that the process of determining drug prices in the country is arbitrary and opaque, adding that that is explained by the sudden and sharp rise in medicine prices.