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      Pharmacies blasted for alleged price fixing

      by Sakeus Iikela

      Photo for illustration purposes. Photo: File

      The Namibia Consumer Trust has condemned the practices of more than 170 pharmacies found to have contravened Namibia's competition law by fixing the prices of medicines in the country.

      Consumer activist Michael Gawaseb says the pharmaceutical industry seems to be taking advantage of consumers “at their most vulnerable stage” with impunity.

      He says the industry is also arrogant for not having sought an exemption from the Namibia Competition Commission (NaCC) before they adopted a blanket pricing structure.

      “Unfortunately it appears the pharmacies and their association persist in their conduct even after having been caught telling untruths and conducting unethical and illegal practices within a self-proclaimed industry where ethics supposedly reign supreme,” he says.

      The concerned pharmacies are members of the Pharmaceutical Society of Namibia.

      According to findings by the Namibia Competition Commission (NaCC), the pharmacies use a mandatory rule to charge a mark-up tariff of 50% on the actual price of medicine they dispense to patients.

      This model is applied “without reasonable justification” on patients both with and without medical aid, according to the NaCC.

      Further, the pharmacies have rejected attempts by the Namibian Association of Medical Aid Funds (Namaf) to introduce a more realistic pricing model and do away with their 50% mark-up model.

      The NaCC has said it would institute legal action against involved pharmacies.

      Gawaseb adds that the findings of the NaCC prove that Namibia needs a comprehensive consumer protection law that clearly caters for consumer interest and “not business interest disguised as public interest”.

      “It is worth mentioning that the envisaged comprehensive consumer law must subject sectors where there is supposedly consumer protection. The health sector is one sector where there is supposedly consumer protection,” Gaweseb says.

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