Raise prices or risk medicine shortages, pharmacists warn Turkish Health Ministry

The fact that pharmaceutical products in Turkey are around the cheapest in the world may sound like good news. But the low retail prices, linked to the lira at the beginning of the year before its 40-percent fall, could mean imports of life-saving drugs dry up and shortages for the sick.

The Turkish lira has fallen around than 40 percent against the dollar since the start of the year, and economists fear a broader economic crisis.

Prices of food and other domestic staples have risen as the weak lira drives import prices up, but pharmaceutical prices, set by the Turkish state, have remained the same. The Health Ministry sets its prices at the beginning of the year, taking five European Union countries as reference points for its pricing.

The prices are supposed to remain at those levels until the following year. But while the prices for 2018 were determined at a rate of 2.6 lira to the euro, the lira has fallen to 7.65 per euro, leading to big drops in profit margins. And that could lead to shortages of supply.

With their products currently priced below their real value, pharmaceutical giants are demanding the Health Ministry put up retail prices.

If no assurances of a price hike are given, there is a risk that international pharmaceutical firms will stop sending stocks to Turkey, making drug shortages inevitable.

Warehouses usually keep two months’ supply of medicines, but companies are beginning to eat into those stockpiles. If no solution is forthcoming by the end of October, there will be a danger of a serious shortfall, pharmaceutical companies warn.

“It’s obvious that at these prices, companies at the very least will not be keen to supply products. Local companies are suffering, too, as they have to import their materials,” pharmaceutical industry journalist Hakan Gençosmanoğlu wrote on the industry news site Eczacının Sesi.

“We have heard of very many requests for price hikes taking place behind closed doors,” said Gençosmanoğlu.

Observers expect the Health Ministry to announce emergency price hikes by the end of the month.