'900% hike in drug registration fee means empty shelves'

Chamber of Commerce slams Health Ministry initiative, say extra money would end up being paid out of consumers’ pockets.

Medicine pills drugs prescription 311 (photo credit: Thinkstock/Imagebank)
Medicine pills drugs prescription 311
(photo credit: Thinkstock/Imagebank)
A Health Ministry initiative for raising registration fees by 900 percent for new prescription and over-the-counter medications and new forms and doses of medications would – if approved by a Knesset committee – cause many to disappear from the shelves, the Chambers of Commerce said on Wednesday.
If the ministry persuades the committee to approve new regulations, it will hike one-time registration fees to be paid by drug importers and manufacturers from NIS 3,100 to NIS 27,000, the organization said. This is significant, said the Chambers of Commerce, because companies would be forced to pay the fee not only for new drugs but also for existing drugs produced in syrup, capsule or spray form, for example, or if the dosage of the same drug is changed.
But the ministry denied that drug shortages would result from the initiative, which “would put Israeli drug registration fees in line with those in Europe.”
Uriel Lynn, chairman of the organization, sent a letter to Deputy Health Minister MK Ya’acov Litzman saying that there is concern the much higher fees will end up being paid out of the consumer’s pocket. As it is, during the past decade, average monthly health expenses have risen by 80%, from NIS 370 to NIS 670, Lynn said.
Hanna Leidershneider, who is in charge of the field of medications in the Chambers of Commerce, maintained that if the regulations are approved, it would be very difficult for smaller manufacturing and importing companies to make medications available, and fewer products will be on pharmacy shelves.
“There will be no incentive for the companies to produce or bring in drugs for which there is little demand or to manufacture or import new products because it will be prohibitive, she said.
“There are some importers who bring in only five different types of drugs,” Leidershneider added.
If the small companies are hurt and even close down due to much higher cost of making drugs available, the big companies will face much less competition and force medication purchasers from the health funds to pay maximum prices instead of granting discounts, Leidershneider said.
“The State of Israel is not a for-profit company that sets its fees according to its expenses, said the Chambers of Commerce.
Registering medical products is a service that the business sector is entitled to on behalf of the public, and it is funded by the state budget financed by taxes the public pay,” said Leidershneider.
The fees are currently updated once or twice a year, but if the new regulation is approved, they will be changed only once in 10 years, the ministry told the organization.
The ministry said that raising fees to European levels will enable it to approve medications much faster and more efficiently, cover its expenses and improve the quality of its testing. The existing “low fees gave the companies a nice profit. The consumers will not suffer from the higher fees because the prices of medications are supervised and controlled by the ministry. In addition, some of the registration fees will be raised only gradually.”
The information provided to the press by the Chambers of Commerce, which warned that pharmacy shelves would “become empty” due to the proposed change, was “irresponsible,” the ministry said. There is no reason to create “confusion and panic among the public. Companies that supply drugs must show more responsibility,” the ministry said.