How to make Belarusian medicines cheaper?

How to make Belarusian medicines cheaper?

Health is priceless, but medicine has its own price.

Sometimes the prices of Belarussian and imported medicine significantly differ. Mostly unfair mediation is to blame. The President of Belarus decided to take a vehement stand against it. On January 26, 2018 Alexander Lukashenko visited the main manufacturer of healthcare products.

Pharmaceutics for health care is as important as the heart for our body; it’s all about its work. Until 2012, Belarussian medicine needed imported medication, however now it’s all good.

Maryan Pristrom has been treating patients for 50 years and teaching doctors for 30 years.

Maryan Pristrom, Doctor of Medical Science, Professor of the chair of the Belarusian Medical Academy of Postgraduate Education:
Belarussian medicine is as good as imported medicine.

Belarussian drugs are becoming more common in treatment of Belarusians. Before you wouldn’t find one, after a while they were viewed with caution, but now the best doctors are ready to write a prescription for national medicine with their name on it.

Maryan Pristrom:
We believe in its effectiveness and we are sure that a patient gets the right medication.

The doctor is talking about the drug from this conveyer. One factory produces 800 million pills per year. Five projects will be finished in 2018.

Valeriy Malashko, Ministry of Health of Belarus:
Our priority is innovative medicine which is expensive and is used in oncology and transplantation.

Pharmaceutical business is very perspective and control is needed to make it safe.

The creation of a separate medical branch began in 2012, when the President signed a special executive order and the pharmaceutical holding company appeared. The task was to flood half of the market with national medicines until 2015. Currently up to 70 % of drugs are found in pharmacies and more than 80 % are used in hospitals; all of these are Belarussian drugs.

Alexander Lukashenko, the President of the Republic of Belarus:
When I made a decision to have more than 50 % of national medicines, I was talking about security because we can be poisoned at some point. Belarussian people don’t understand that, they look up to imported medicine. That’s why foreign manufacturers must control everything and there shouldn’t be a problem but for competition with domestic manufacturers because they will acquire medicine not from you, but from somebody else if the quality and price are better.

It takes from 8 to 10 years to manufacture a new medicine, though Belarussian specialists managed to produce almost 800 new drugs. It was decided to make Belarussian analogues of original pills. In the end, the country has its own pharmaceutical branch and people can afford medicine.

Moreover national drugs are under rigid control.

Natalia Slesarevich, Deputy Director for Quality:
The quality of manufacture, laboratories and equipment is way different from the quality we had 20 years ago. Unfortunately, Belarussian people don’t have enough information about our factories; they don’t know that we’ve made a big step forward.

Belarussian medicine is exported to 33 countries. In 2017 Belarussian pharmacists have registered 140 drugs abroad.

Irina Podobed, the head of a pharmaceutical manufacturing company ‘Minskintercaps’:
Belarussian medicine makes up 54 % of the market. Trade and export prove that the quality of our products is high.

The quality of medication is really good, though the price is not.

Valeriy Malashko:
The price of 117 drugs has already been reduced and it corresponds with the prices of neighboring countries.

Alexander Lukashenko:
You tell me that we have a 4 % difference with Russia. That’s not an exemplary country in this respect. The President of Russia tells me every day that Russia has problems with the prices of medicines. And you still look at Russia. But we’ll deal with it soon. It’s not special services’ work to determine prices of medication.

In 2017, Belarus managed to save up to $35 million thanks to state procurements and direct negotiations. Currently Belarussian market consists of 400 factories, with Belarussian factories making up one tenth of the market.

Mediators are the virus which has spread not only onto pharmaceutical branch but also onto country’s economy. The Presidents has his own treatment.

Alexander Lukashenko:
They are not the only ones who have this problem. I’ve talked about mediation many times. Our mediators sometimes get half of the price. If a product costs 100 rubles, then a mediator will get 50 rubles. Do we need that? It makes products more expensive! Why aren’t we solving this problem? I was ready to make a certain decision to ban mediation of any kind. What does a mediator do? He is a cheater who financially supports officials. You can ask Mr. Shunevich or Mr. Vakulchik and they will tell where all our problems come from. They come from mediators.
If we approve of mediation, then a minister or a governor should put their names on it. Later all the accusations will be directed to him. Mr. Shunevich won’t have to look for somebody. If he sees that something’s wrong, he will find the person responsible. We lose a lot of money. That’s the center of corruption, that’s the source for bribes and so on.

When there are fewer mediators, prices for imported medication will be reduced whereas now the price is two or three times higher than for Belarussian mediation. That’s why national pharmaceuticals industry must be prepared for such an outcome.

Valeriy Malashko:
Belarussian medicine has a strong stand on the market. And I don’t doubt that there are perspectives. We must manage marketing of medicine in the right way.

It’s easier to stand up for your interests in a holding company which has 22 factories, only 15 of them do that. There should be healthy competition on the market, and the image of pharmaceuticals industry should change a lot during a six-month period.

Alexander Lukashenko:
I’m not saying that you will set prices or something else but you will take under control all these processes in the country regarding producing, sales within the country and import. And I mean retail sales and sales to hospitals. We need to take everything under control. I’ll consider later the plan for the first six months proposed by you.

Belarussian market buys medication for nearly 700 million dollars. Two thirds of these expenses are left in the country. For the first time ever our pharmaceutical factories earned half a billion dollars during the year; one third of this sum came from export. Alexander Lukashenko believes that it’s too soon to rest on our laurels, we need to continue developing this area.

Alexander Lukashenko:
I need to run faster. What do we need? Blueberries? I have blueberries at home.

One gelcap has 1.5 kg of blueberries. These materials from forest berries are imported too. We have enough forests but we don’t have the necessary technologies. The diagnosis for Belarus is that the branch is healthy, but the process of modernization is yet to come.

At the end of the visit the President was presented a book with doctors’ pearls of wisdom. ‘Let food be thy medicine and medicine not be thy food.’ Of course, it all depends on everybody’s personal choice. Belarus gives us this choice.