The Budget speech is a big disappointment for the union and the pharmacists' association. Nothing has been said to resolve the problem of drug shortages and the rise in their prices in recent years.

“Roughly speaking, this Budget has only one vision: to solicit votes for the next general elections,” said Ashwin Dookun, president of the Pharmaceutical Association of Mauritius (PAM). He adds that with the measures set out, “pe tir dan gos pou mett dan drwat”. For him, it is the consumers who, in one way or another, will finance the various social allowances and benefits through artificial inflation and the depreciation of the rupee which have pushed up all prices in recent years. “At the end of the day, our economy will collapse due to the lack of vision and structures for recovery,” he denounces.

Failure of “Regressive mark-up”

The president of the PAM also deplores that since the introduction of a so-called “Regressive mark-up” on drug prices, nothing has been done to consolidate or review this measure. He explains that since its introduction, prices of pharmaceutical products have continued to rise due to various factors. This is all the more true as the lower margin seems to be applied to all pharmaceutical products, he maintains. Ashwin Dookun also points out that the authorities had been warned that this measure was not going to work and was not going to achieve the expected objective. He emphasizes that pharmacists have nothing to do with these price increases and that we must instead turn to importers and suppliers.

Siddique Khodabocus, president of the association of small and medium importers of pharmaceutical products, deplores for his part that nothing has been mentioned regarding the parallel importation of medicines and their prices. For him, it could have helped the general public. He adds that permits could have been given for essential medicines and those used long-term, as well as for chronic diseases such as diabetes, high blood pressure and cardiovascular diseases, among others.

Reinvent the system

He adds that there are generics for almost all drugs, sold at a better price than the original products. According to him, the solution to lowering drug prices is to end the monopoly that exists in this sector and authorize the parallel importation of these products. “We must reinvent the health system, because many people do not want to pay the price. They complain about the prices of medicines, but say nothing about the increase in room rates in clinics and other consumer products,” he laments. And for those who prefer to use branded drugs, they must agree to pay the price, because they are expensive at the source, he makes clear.

According to Ashwin Dookun, wholesalers have a well-established structure and expenses that they cannot escape. So, if their profit margin drops, they must find ways to rebalance their income. He is therefore of the opinion that “tacit agreements” were made with suppliers in order to “inflate” the prices of products to ultimately maintain their income. Ashwin Dookun also adds that some import in smaller quantities, leading to untimely shortages of many medicines.

With the other measures taken in favor of employees concerning the minimum wage, which the president of the PAM does not criticize, he nevertheless wonders how pharmacy owners will be able to get by. “On the one hand, the authorities have lowered the profit margin of pharmacies and on the other, they are introducing measures to increase employees' salaries,” he protests. For him, this looks like a disguised way of killing the service that private pharmacies provide to the population. “Private pharmacies are there to compensate for the shortcomings of the public service,” he says.


“I am very disappointed that no proposal has been made for lowering drug prices,” explains Claude Canabady, secretary of the Consumer's Eye Association (CEA). While some have mentioned the parallel importation of medicines, the problem remains because no decision has been taken to authorize it. This, while some patients have to buy medicines in private pharmacies that they cannot obtain in hospital.

Claude Canabady also talks about his disappointment regarding the non-removal of certain taxes on fuel prices, which would have allowed a drop in the price of certain amenities through a snowball effect, according to him. “This measure could have relieved many consumers,” he said. The secretary of the CEA affirms that he welcomes social measures such as the increase in the minimum wage as well as pensions. However, with the cost of living constantly rising, this will not change anything because all the gains obtained will quickly be swallowed up in the prices of amenities which are constantly rising.

The secretary of the CEA thus pleads for targeting vulnerable families so that they have coupons for the purchase of foodstuffs. Furthermore, he is of the opinion that a reduction in fuel prices would have had more impact than the reduction in the price of a household gas cylinder. For many, this only represents a reduction of Rs 50 per month, which pales in comparison to the cost of many products.


Ashwin Dookun adds that it is a total disavowal that the Minister of Health has acknowledged that around 25% of the population turns to the private health service. “Even if it was 1% of the population, it is nevertheless a percentage of the population which is not satisfied with the free service available in the public and which prefers to turn to the private health service”, explains -he. And with many medications not available in public hospitals, patients have no other choice than to turn to private pharmacies, continues the president of the PAM. A study should have been carried out to try to understand why many people prefer to buy their medicines in pharmacies instead of taking them for free in the public health service, argues Siddique Khodabocus.

The president of the PAM also points out that medicines cannot be treated like other commodities and cannot be used as a propaganda tool by certain politicians. “Everyone is affected by medications,” he says. He thus calls for a change in the import system, the adoption of parallel importation of pharmaceutical products and the establishment of a medicines control body. “Arguing that there is a risk of having counterfeit products through parallel importation is too easy an excuse,” he maintains. He adds that the Pharmacy Hub proposed by the authorities will be a failure, because the medicines will not be cheaper even if they are manufactured in Mauritius, because the raw materials will have to be imported anyway.

Like Ashwin Dookun, Siddique Khodabocus is of the opinion that things as essential as pharmaceuticals should not be politicized. He therefore wonders if the opposition will propose subsidies concerning the prices of medicines.

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