Last September, the Belarusian Health Ministry announced that, for the first time, the share of Belarus-made medicines exceeded 50 percent in monetary terms — meeting the goal of ensuring national security. At present, all domestic pharmaceutical manufacturing plants work to satisfy domestic drug demand and rival foreign brands as far as cost is concerned. Since 1992, the number of production facilities has risen from 3 to 26 and the market volume has increased from $110mln to $1bln.
Since 2012, a Presidential order for the large scale modernisation of pharmaceutical plants has been implemented. At the end of the year, a state programme for pharmaceutical branch development from 2016-2020 is to be approved; it envisages the establishment of new high-tech production facilities operating under international standards in Belarus.
Pricing is a special feature of the programme: the Belarusian Government has prepared a list of domestically produced medicines with fixed prices. A special commission will make decisions on any changes regarding nationally important drugs. In turn, prices on non-essential medicines may vary — although they are also supervised by the Health Ministry. Accordingly, prices may vary slightly in different pharmacies.
The Deputy Director and Head of the Department of Economy and Marketing at the Health Ministry’s Pharmaceutical Industry Department — Victor Shein — describes the state position, “the production of no fewer than 35 of the regulated drugs is made at a loss. Planned loss making on some items reaches minus 40 percent. Nevertheless, these drugs are present at the Belarusian market.”
The list of medicines sold without a prescription is to be cut: these are around 1,000 (out of 5,000 registered drugs).
Many Belarusians still believe that foreign drugs are better than those produced domestically. According to experts, this is the result of a well prepared marketing policy by foreign pharmaceutical companies and a failure of Belarusian producers to promote their medicines effectively. However, an increasing number of people are persuaded that Belarus-made drugs are at least as good as their well-advertised foreign counterparts.
A clear two-stage control system over the quality of medicines has created a barrier against counterfeit drugs in the country. The last time these were detected in Belarusian pharmacies was in 2004. All drugs are supplied directly from the producers or official distributors who bear responsibility for their quality.
By German Moskalenko