Sudan

Pharmacists warn of medicine scarcity in Sudan

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While medicine prices increase, some life-saving medicines have become scarce in Khartoum and other states. Patients and their attendants complained that medicines have become unaffordable.

Some medicines prices have exceeded the price issued that the board of medicines issues in 2016, pharmacist Awad Mohamed said. “The price of Atakat tablets for blood pressure has risen from SDG 280 ($41.70) to SDG 418 ($62.30). The price for one of the categories of diabetes drugs has risen from SDG 550 ($82) to SDG 1037 ($154.60).”

A number of companies stopped selling medicines altogether because of the instability of the exchange rate of the Dollar. “This caused the scarcity of medicines such as asthma sprays, aspirin, as well as medicine against prostate diseases and medical treatment for psychiatric disorders.”

The pharmacist said that the Sudanese government is not committed to its promises to provide the Dollar at the official exchange rate for the import of life-saving medicines and medicines for children under the age of five.

He attributed the steady increase in the prices of medicines to the economic decisions taken by the Sudanese government in 2016. “They raised the import prices for medicines to SDG 15 ($2.20) instead of SDG 6.9 ($1). In addition the pharmaceutical companies have resorted to buying US Dollars from the parallel market.”

Mohamed warned for the serious effects of the high prices of medicines for chronic diseases such as diabetes and blood pressure. “Patients with a low income have stopped buying medicines and resorted to herbs.”

Parliament

The deputy chairman of the health committee in the Sudanese parliament, Saleh Jumaa, said that the prices of medicines have risen by 200 percent in hospitals and pharmacies.

Jumaa expected a deepening shortage of medicines and increasing prices in the coming period. The Central Bank of Sudan is not committed to paying the debts on medical supplies by external companies, he claimed.

“The Ministry of Finance has failed miserably in the development of policies to reduce the high prices.” Jumaa reported a huge shortage of kidney transplant solutions in the country's hospitals, now that companies have stopped importing them because of the high Dollar price for the last three months.

Austerity measures

The Sudanese Pound lost much of its value since the secession of South Sudan in 2011, which pushed inflation to record levels as Sudan imports most of its food and medicines. New austerity measures by Sudan in November 2016 led to huge increases in prices of medicines, fuel, electricity, and food. Sudanese people responded with large-scale civil disobedience actions on 27 to 29 November and on 19 December.

At the time of the civil disobedience actions, spokesmen for Khartoum commented that economic sanctions of the United States against Sudan blocked its companies from buying their medicines, meaning they had to buy their stocks from third parties, increasing the drug prices.

With the repeal of the economic sanctions on Sudan by U.S. president Donald Trump last October, the rise of the US dollar on Khartoum's parallel market – which also results from the scarcity of hard currency – was briefly halted. Yet, the rate of the Sudanese Pound soon began to drop again, as the demand for hard currency did not change.