BULAWAYO – Resident in Bulawayo have called for urgent intervention measures to address the exorbitant pricing in pharmacies, as the sector has shunned the official rate of 1:2,5 to the United States dollar.
Members of the public who spoke to the Daily News yesterday said government should come to their rescue as the prices in most pharmacies were out of their reach in these trying economic times.
“I am expected to buy a monthly supply of BP tablets, but of late I have failed due to the pricing.
We don’t know how we are going to survive; these pharmacies are fleecing us,” said an elderly woman, who indicated that she needed about US$38 per month for one of the five pills that she takes for her condition. Contacted for comment, Pharmaceutical Society of Zimbabwe (PSZ) president Portifah Mwendera said it was unfortunate that the sector had to apply the rate of between 1:4 and 1:4,5 in order to cushion itself in the unfavourable economic context.
“Unfortunately, the prevailing rate in most pharmacies is between 1:4 and 1:4,5. In the Monetary Policy Statement that was presented, the medicines sector is part of the reserve bank’s priority list for foreign currency allocation but this has not been the case. We last got an allocation in October last year and the sector has been sourcing foreign currency through trade,” he said.
“The major problem is that the pharmaceutical society is not getting any funding from the RBZ, such that we can have price parity so that people don’t have to say they are being fleeced. Unfortunately, the exchange rate on the parallel market is unregulated; we don’t know how they calculate their rates.”
Mwendera said the pricing in the pharmacies has for a while been determined by the mode of payment required by the suppliers.
“Pharmacies have been charging according to how they are accessing their medicines from the supplier. If the supplier is accepting payment in bond notes then they will be comfortable to sell in the same currency and if they are purchasing in the US dollar then they will also sell in that currency,” he said.
“When pharmacies are selling medicines, they sell with an anticipation to replace or restock what has been sold, hence the attempt to cushion themselves from the unstable exchange rates.”
In this harsh economic phase, patients have continued to walk in and out of pharmacies empty handed as most of the medicines are out of their reach.
Pharmacies have for months maintained a three-tier pricing system with a seemingly self-enriching motive.