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Egypt's pharmaceutical sector in crisis


The Egyptian pharmaceutical market is facing a major drug shortage.

Pharmaceutical production in the country has been impacted by an ailing economy and pharmacists warn that vital drug supplies, like those for cancer treatment and diabetes, are dwindling.

Also, pharmaceutical companies face the dual obstacle of a drop in foreign currency reserves making imports harder, as well as government fixed prices that companies say are too low.

The companies are subject by law to a set number of price ceilings they are forbidden to exceed.

Medicines are grouped according to pricing category, with the lowest starting at $0.64.

At least 75% of all medicines in the market are priced at $2.55.

The rates have been designed to make drugs available especially to those of limited financial means and prices have been mainly stable for the past 25 years.

“All of our things are imported from abroad, directly or indirectly, whether the raw material or the packaging material. When the price of the dollar fluctuates, this leads to an increase in the costs. We’ve already talked about the costs in terms of pricing, but now we have another problem, which is access to foreign currency,” said Osama Rostom, board member of the Egyptian International Pharmaceutical Industry Company (EIPICO).

To ease pressure on importers, the country’s central bank last week raised the cap on foreign currency deposits at banks fivefold to $250,000, to help relieve a dollar shortage that has led to imports of essential goods piling up at ports.

The cap was previously set at $50,000.

Since the 2011 revolt, the north African country is yet to recover from political turmoil that has affected most sectors of the economy.

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