BEIRUT: A decision issued by the Health Ministry Friday should significantly lower the prices of brand-name medicines, a move that will have particular effect on the cost of drugs used to treat chronic diseases.
The decision, signed into effect by caretaker Health Minister Ali Hasan Khalil, aims to lower the profit margins of shipping companies, importers, distributors and pharmacists.
The Health Ministry had already issued a decision by which it lowered the cost of generic drugs and those awaiting license approval to make them 30 percent cheaper than branded medications.
In a statement, the Order of Medicine Importers and Owners of Medicine Depots in Lebanon announced their commitment to the regulations and prices set by the Health Ministry after comparing them to the prices in the countries of origin, the average price in seven European countries and the lowest price for seven neighboring Arab countries.
The order denied media reports in which Consumer Protection Association officials were quoted as saying that the medicine importers had been manipulating bills and lacked transparency. But the order noted that the Lebanese were paying double the legal price for various drugs.
The order emphasized that the pricing had been done after consulting the Finance, Economy, Trade and Industry ministries and after consultations with the Shura Council.
The order also urged the media to be accurate in the information it reported about the cost of medications and the legal standards and procedures used to set these prices, rather than basing their reports on false analyses by the public.
The Health Ministry decision has now been referred to the relevant authorities, who have a week to submit their opinion and remarks on the issue, after which the ruling should be implemented.
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on February 15, 2014, on page 3.