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Under public pressure :Analgesics price float reversed.

By Ibtisam Awadat Special to The Star The government's response to stop the flotation on prices of 50 medications indicated that public opinion's pressure to reject the flotation was taken into consideration. Jordan Food and Drug Administration (JFDA) took the decision to float the prices of 50 non-prescription analgesics and antibiotics on November 1, 2006. Accordingly, the prices of analgesics and antibiotics rose by 100-120 percent. This unreasonable increase and the pressure of the public opinion made the government intervene, which led to The Ministers' Council taking a decision to stop the floating and entrusting Minister of Health Saad Al-Kharabsheh to take the necessary procedures to revert to the old pricing system.In a press conference, the minister said that JFDA along with the Medications Pricing Committee were entrusted to announce the names of all the analgesics and antibiotics that were floated, and to instruct the 1,800 pharmacies in the country to maintain the old prices. Kharabsheh announced that the inspection teams at the ministry will conduct daily surveillance to make sure that all pharmacies are complying with the old pricing list. Kharabsheh warned that those who don't comply with the decision will be penalized.The Presidents' Council at the Professional Associations highly commended the government's decision. "It's a very positive step taken by the government. We also call on all the concerned parties not to take such a decision in the future," Head of Jordan Agricultural Engineers Association, Abdel Hadi Al-Falahat, said."Such products are used by a wide range of Jordanians and any raise on their prices will badly affect the people," he noted. "We believe that medical products have no less importance than that of food products. Therefore, there is a need to study the implications of any similar decision in the future," Falahat pointed out.Meanwhile, the JFDA, according to its General Director Dr Salah Mawajdeh, intensified inspection field visits to pharmacies and medicine warehouses in coordination with the Ministry of Health all around the Kingdom to make sure that only the old pricing list is implemented. Mawajdeh noted that the flotation was supposed to only target medications that are sold without a medical prescription. "The government is entitled to protect the citizens by introducing specialized legislations that prevent monopoly," Head of Consumers Protection Committee, Dr Basem Kiswani, said. Also he commended the positive step taken by the government to protect the citizens from exploitation. "Both the Pharmacists and Doctors associations have early warned that the flotation will lead to a sharp rise in prices. If this flotation was allowed to continue, it would have led to unjustifiably huge profits accruing to medicine companies and businesses at the expense of the general public," Kiswani commented. He noted that the global market economy enforces the government to create real mechanisms and legislations to inhibit monopoly and protect consumers. "The rise in prices has become unbearable and all the concerned parties have to take a serious stand to prevent new burdens from ending up on the people's shoulders," Kiswani noted.President of Jordan Doctors Association, Dr Hashem Abu-Hassan, who immediately after hearing the decision of flotation declared his boycott to the JFDA's meetings, said that there was a special committee formed by a former minister of health to study the different angles of the decision, and that all of a sudden it became effective."We truly criticize the one-sided rush by the JFDA to implement such a decision that affect people on a national level before the committee declared its position," Abu-Hassan commented.Political observers believe that the government's response is a new methodology to interact with the public opinion towards the causes that affect the citizens and improve the economic situation. Prices for a 30-pill box of Revanin rose from JD0.60 to JD1.0. People who were shocked by the decision wondered why should such medications that are manufactured locally and are available in the markets be raised. "I would like here to refer to one of the cartoons made by Hajjaj in which he says that 'after they caused us a headache because of the lack of gas cylinders, they raised Panadol prices'," said Bashar Omar, a real estate agent. "These non-prescription analgesics and antibiotics can be found in every single house in the country. Daily life headaches need something to ease them; they even wanted to transform these painkillers into new headaches," he added.Meanwhile, English teacher Basma Mahmoud said that her job, housework, and children leave her with nothing at the end of the day but with a Panadol or Revanin pill to kill her headache. "Even this luxury they wanted to deprive us of," she said ironically. "I don't really understand how some officials think. As if they try their best to find the best way to make people pay more and more," she continued. A*Under public pressure :Analgesics price float reversed

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Publication:The Star (Amman, Jordan)
Date:Jan 23, 2007
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