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Drugs for all - Govt struggles to contain price chaos in pharmacies

April 1, 2010, will see the end of chaotic prices for drugs in Russia as the government pledges to regulate them, making sure prices are the same everywhere.

Drugs prices unexpectedly shot up at the end of last year triggering a wave of discontent within society, especially among those who are dependent on medications.

“It is outrageous!” says Tatiana Marchenko, a patient with heart problems, who relies on medicine every day.

“It's the government's responsibility to stabilize the prices and make sure that they are the same everywhere. It's wrong when in one pharmacy a drug costs much more than the same one in the pharmacy next door,” she stresses.

In fact, the price for a drug in one pharmacy can be up to double that of the same in a pharmacy next door. During the flu season and with the hype over swine flu, the prices for viral drugs and face masks increased rapidly.

“The ministry has been monitoring the situation on the pharmaceutical market since October of 2008, but we had no mechanisms to influence it in any way. The prices increased by 16 percent, which is much higher than the inflation rate,” said Elena Telnova, health ministry spokesperson.

But the law has been amended so the ministry of health can control how high the prices for certain drugs can be. It has created a list of 500 substances and set a maximum price for them.

Any pharmacy selling them will have to register with the Ministry to make sure they comply with the new regulations.

“We want to make medicine accessible to everyone. But, of course we understand that it must be profitable for pharmaceutical companies to produce and for pharmacies to sell medicine. And we will keep in mind all their expenses including taxes,” explains Telnova.

Pharmacies and drug producers have till the end of March to register with the ministry, or face their license being withdrawn or severe fines.

The authorities have not promised a rapid and immediate fall in medicine prices. What they want is to stabilize prices and make sure that within a year medical treatment will be accessible to everyone who needs it.


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