Medicine shortages in Turkey as pharmaceuticals wait for govt price hikes

Patients in Turkey are having difficulties in finding some 150 medicines as pharmaceutical companies hold back supplies in anticipation of the government’s announcement of annual price hikes, a news report said on Wednesday. 

The Gazete Duvar news portal on Wednesday quoted a lawmaker from the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) as saying this was an annual problem with medical firms and depots suspending the release of products before the announcement of the price hikes on February 15.

CHP MP Burhanettin Bulut labeled the situation an “artificially-created crisis.”

He criticized the medical firms and depots for their “ambition to profit” and the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) government for its failure to bring a permanent solution to the problem.

Erdogan Colak, the chairman of the Turkish Pharmacists’ Association (TEB), confirmed the MP claims of annual shortages and called on the pharmacies in the country to inform the TEB about which drugs are in short supply.

“One of the reasons that medical firms limit [the medicine supply] from time to time can be expected price increases. In that period [between January and February 15], the distribution firms might be providing pharmacies with a limited amount of medicines as well,” said the TEB chair.

During the first 45 days of every year, the Turkish health ministry’s Price Evaluation Commission gathers to set the new exchange rate for imported medicines in an attempt to determine the sale prices of the medication.

This year, the commission is expected to announce the 1 Euro value based on the calculation of 60 percent of the annual average Euro value of the previous year.

This would increase the Euro rate for imported medicines by 10 to 11 percent, Colak said.

The new prices are to be announced on February 15 and implemented on February 20.

In order to solve the medicine shortage problem, Colak proposed that the price adjustments should be performed periodically during the year instead of setting up the prices at the beginning of the year.

Regarding the shortage problem, Turkey’s health ministry accuses the pharmaceutical industry of hoarding drugs to sell after the price hike.

Bulut also criticized the AKP policies on imported drugs, which have allegedly made the country import-dependent.

“In the last 13 years, the cost and the quantity of imported drugs have increased. One out of every four drugs used in 2019 [in the country] has been imported,” Bulut said.

He said that Turkey’s “wrong drug policies” made it an import-dependent country.

“The money spent on drugs imported from abroad and the imported drug quantity have increased in the last 13 years,” Bulut claimed. 

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