Wellness & Fitness

Let's consider regulating drug prices


Last week, the Kenya Medical and Practitioners Council, in observance of a directive by the Departmental Committee on Health of the National Assembly, convened a stakeholders' technical working group (TWG) meeting on the review of healthcare professional fees in the country.

The TWG sought to unravel the general cost of healthcare in the country, components of professional fees, cost of medicines and medical devices. The ultimate objective was to devise strategies to lower costs and improve outcomes of healthcare services. This is in line with the increasing financial accessibility of healthcare services in Kenya.

It was established that healthcare professional fees, as a healthcare cost driver, account for only around 10 percent of the total cost, the other 90 percent being ancillaries such as clinical investigations, medical supplies and essential drugs.

Also, a huge component of the Kenya Essential Drugs List, about 75 percent, is serviced by products that are imported into the country. This unfavorable status quo calls for a foundational review of the costs of essential drugs. One approach worth emulating is that utilised by countries such as India, which is famed globally for having high quality but low-cost healthcare services.

The policy also seeks to strengthen the system of quality control in drug production and promotes the rational use of drugs. Among its tenets includes capping the ceiling prices of essential drugs. For example, the maximum retail price (MRP) of some scheduled formulations is fixed by drug manufacturers on the basis of ceiling prices notified by the Indian government.

It is mandatory to print the MRP on the label of an essential medicine pack. To promote adherence, non-observance of these policies can lead to the prosecution of a manufacturer or retailer. This approach is worth considering.