PHARMACEUTICAL Society of Zambia media and corporate affairs chairperson Samuel Muyunda says when the COVID-19 pandemic began, it was expected that the price of certain essential items would go up due to demand and other factors.

In an interview, Muyunda refuted assertions that some pharmacies inflated prices of certain drugs in order to gain more profits.

“It’s morally wrong to artificially inflate prices, it’s not right and it’s something that we the pharmacists generally don’t subscribe to. But then when you look at what happened at the advent and height of the COVID-19 pandemic as it were at the time, you would find that, because we are in a free market economy and market forces of supply and demand always kick in. You will find that at that time, the demand for certain medicine is also over the counter like, vitamin C, paracetamol and facilities such as hand sanitiser, disinfectant and so on, the demand far outstripped the supply, so by logical deduction, it was expected that the price would go higher but beyond that, one of the things that happened was at that time, inflation in our country was quite high and as a result, the kwacha was negatively affected,” he said.

“The dollar reached the heights of about 22 or 24 kwacha for a dollar and that meant that the amount of kwacha needed to buy these products was very high, that also out, a lot of strain in terms of the amount that an ordinary citizen would have to pay in order to acquire those medicines. So there were a lot of factors at a time but issues pertaining to artificially staging prices, I think in our country that didn’t not happen. Generally speaking, it is something that the Pharmaceutical Society of Zambia would not even subscribe to. And there are government entities such as consumer and customer protection units and so on that keep visual on incidences and situations like that and usually we would inform them of such vices and they kick in to ensure that there are no artificially staged prices, even article unfairness that is done to consumers not only in the pharmaceutical sector but in any other sector.”

He said the situation had now stabilised.

“We are confident as we go forward that the situation has normalised to a very large extent. What we have in terms of pricing on the market is in tandem with international trade. So there is no concept in the pharmaceutical industry as of now of exploitation to the general public. They are receiving optimal services as they should especially as we chant during this pharmacy awareness week and the concept of universal health coverage, that is the message that is also being championed by the Ministry of Health. So there is no exploitation taking place now and we are hopeful and we know that even as we go into the future, there is no such vice that we can allow to take root in our country. As pharmacists in the Pharmaceutical Society of Zambia, we can not allow such a thing to happen,” said Muyunda.