Pharmaceutical Society of Zambia president Jerome Kanyika has urged Zambians to protests against the proposed revised license fees by the Zambia Medical Regulations Authority (ZAMRA).

And Kanyika has revealed that there is rampant theft by some pharmaceutical companies who charge exorbitant prices for basic drugs like Panadol.

ZAMRA has proposed a revised schedule of fees for hospitals, pharmacies and retail medical stores, with some fees doubled, while others have been increased by between three to six times.

Reacting to ZAMRA’s proposed upward revision of fees for operating licences for all drug dealers, Kanyika urged the authority to stop issuing licenses to pharmacies, which are within 200 metres-distant from each other, with immediate effect.

In an interview, Kanyika also appealed to government to start considering setting the prices for medical drugs next year, saying that pharmacies were exploiting poor Zambians with high costs of drugs.

“I have seen the proposed fees. Other fees are okay, while other fees are not okay. What I mean is the fees for opening a retail pharmacy, which has moved from K4,750 to K20,000, that shift is too much! It can be okay if they make…to reach that far (periodically) unlike just adding at one time. Then again, if you check how the business is this time, the hospital pharmacy is making a lot of money and it cannot stay at K3,100. When you go to these big hospitals, you find that they are stocking all sorts of these medicines and they are not sending prescriptions to retail pharmacies, meaning that the hospitals are making more, but are paying less. In terms of the licences, which is about K3,100; if that figure can go a little bit higher, it is possible that figure should remain the same with what they are proposing for pharmacies together with the vet-agro shop figure,” Kanyika explained.

He suggested that the revised fee for agro-veterinary needed to go higher for pharmacies because vets make a lot of money.

“For vet shops, they are saying it’s going to be from K4,750 to K9,750. Again that’s not fair, while for a pharmacy, they have moved it from K4,000 to K20,000. This time ZAMRA is making a lot of money through the veterinary medicines. Now, why and how can a veterinary shop, which sells antibiotics and other medicines for vets, pay less money, while the other side the pharmacy pays more money? I think it is very unfair on the pharmacy side, and if ZAMRA wants these fees to go as they want, they need to harmonize all the fees,” Kanyika added.

Kanyika added that the fees had been raised to abnormal standards when the industry was already making losses due to the competition with illegal drug dealers, among others.

“And we should know that these fees are paid per year. And on the pharmaceutical wholesale fees, I think ZAMRA should reconsider. Rising the fees is not a problem, but the way they want to increase is where the problem is. All the same, the Society is not worried about the increment, but the major problem that we have is (i) we have a lot of illegal drug stores; (ii) we have a lot of illegal drugs that are on the market that are not registered with ZAMRA; (iii) we have a lot of illegal drug dealers who are competing with registered drug dealers. So, ZAMRA gives licenses…and let me take this opportunity to tell ZAMRA to stop with immediate effect issuing licenses to pharmacies that are next door to each other,” he appealed.

And Kanyika revealed that there is rampant theft by pharmaceutical companies who charge exorbitant prices for basic drugs.

“The Pharmaceutical Council sat yesterday and they discussed, and we passed the resolution to say ZAMRA should start considering a 200 metres radius because a pharmacy is not about business, but about service delivery to the people. And not only that, government should also come in to control the prices in terms of the medicines. There is too much stealing from the pharmaceutical companies; stealing from the public where this pharmaceutical company will be selling Panadol at K1, while the other pharmacy will be selling the same Panado at K5. This also applies to private hospitals. Government should come in and control the prices so that the poor people are protected,” revealed Kanyika.