All county hospitals to sell drugs at same price

Nurses attend to expectant women
Nurses attend to expectant women in hospital. County hospitals will be obligated to sell government-supplied drugs at the same price. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

County hospitals will be obligated to sell government-supplied drugs at the same price in new policy guidelines being developed by the Ministry of Health.

The move is aimed at making medicines more affordable for Kenyans, Health Secretary Sicily Kariuki said on Monday.

The cost of medical procedures will also be standardised across the country.

A report released by the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) two weeks ago revealed how counties add astronomical markups on drugs supplied by the Kenya Medical Supplies Authority (Kemsa).

“We will be setting a ceiling beyond which they cannot go and so far we have spoken with the counties who are receptive of the idea,” said Ms Kariuki.


She added that the pharmaceutical companies would not be able to sidestep the price ceiling.

Widespread variation

The EACC report showed there is widespread variation in what different counties charge for the same drugs and medical procedures.

Counties will be required to set up a committee on the pricing of services and medicine.

“The EACC report, exposed systemic weaknesses and opportunities in the procurement and dispensing stages of pharmaceutical and non- pharmaceutical supplies in the public sector which denies most Kenyans access to quality, affordable medical products,” she said.

Ms Kariuki spoke during the launch of Rapid Result Initiative (RRI) on Post Marketing Surveillance (PMS) of medicines and medical devices in the Kenyan market.

The EACC report showed that Kenyans are paying as much as 5,000 per cent more for medicines and medical procedures in public health facilities.

A surgical operation to remove the urinary bladder, for example, can cost Sh7,500 for cash-paying patients, but the price shoots up to Sh90,000 for those paying through National Hospital Insurance Fund (NHIF) and other insurance cards.

Big margins

The EACC report also exposed counties which purchase drugs from Kemsa at a subsidised rates only to increase the prices by big margins.

The counties, which have the drugs delivered to their doorsteps by Kemsa, are only allowed to increase the prices by not more than 20 per cent to cover distribution costs.

That guideline is, however, not adhered to.

H.pylori bacterial infection drugs, which consist of 14 tablets of 500mg of Clarithromycin, 1mg of amoxicillin and 30mg of Lansoprazole, are for example sold at Kemsa for Sh840, while at Coast General Hospital they go for Sh1,300, compared with Sh2,400 at Nakuru County Referral Hospital.