Rise in dollar rate, but drug prices remain low: MPMEEA chair

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About 85 per cent of medicines in the domestic market are imported. Photo: Phoe Khwar

The rise in the US dollar exchange rate against Myanmar’s currency has hiked up the price of imported medicines, yet drugs are being sold at rates lower than the prevailing price levels, said U Zaw Moe Khaing, Chair of Myanmar Pharmaceuticals and Medical Equipment Entrepreneurs’ Association and chair and CEO of AA Medical Products Ltd.
“We have asked pharmacies, as well as importers, to see to it that customers benefit. They are voluntarily complying with our request. The rise in drug prices is reasonable, compared with the appreciation in the exchange rate. For example, the percentage of drug costs is significantly lower than the rate of the high exchange rate in May and October, with the exception of some pharmacies raising prices for out-of-stock drugs,” he added.
Starting mid-July, the dollar exchange rate has remained above Ks1,400. It gradually rose to touch a record high of Ks1,640 per dollar. Now, it is fluctuating around Ks1,597.
The distributors of pharmaceuticals raised drug prices by five per cent when the dollar exchange rate rose sharply.
About 85 per cent of medicines in the domestic market are imported. Their prices are directly linked to the dollar exchange rate. High drug prices, attributed to the volatile currency market, have embittered the public.
Drug importers and pharmacies are also facing difficulties. If the floating dollar exchange rate spirals out of control, the small and medium entrepreneurs operating in the medical sector will not be able to survive, in the long run, said U Zaw Moe Khaing.
At present, the medical retail price is up by 10 per cent. However, the wholesale market has seen a 30-per-cent increase, depending on the class of medicine.
“Medicine prices are pretty high. The prices vary, depending on the class of medicine. Some drug prices have risen sharply, while others have witnessed a slight increase. I cannot even purchase some medicines. I am not sure whether this is because importers are factoring in the higher dollar rate or they have run out of stock,” said U Ohm Myint, owner of a pharmacy in Mayangon Township.
With the rise in exchange rates, most importers are now accepting orders only upon complete payment. Earlier, they were allowing arrears of up to one month. Some buyers are finding this difficult, as they are unable to make a full payment immediately, and trading with full payment has decreased, added U Zaw Moe Khaing.
“We do not control the market. But some misunderstand that, owing to the decrease in trading with full payment,” he said.
The appreciating dollar exchange rate has hiked prices of fundamental items, including medicines.
To regulate the dollar rate, the government is holding weekly discussions with the Central Bank of Myanmar, the Ministry of Planning and Finance, and the Ministry of Commerce. It also selling dollars to private banks and scrutinizing currency manipulation.


By May Thet Hnin

(Translated by Ei Mon)

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