Pharmacies in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) are reportedly selling drugs without warning about potentially dangerous side effects after the Health Ministry recently moved to reduce drug prices in the country. Last month, the government cut prices for more than 6,000 drugs, reducing the profit margins for pharmacies from 19% to 14%.
According to pharmacists, profits have been so badly impacted by the measures that they cannot risk losing sales by warning customers about side effects. For example, weight-loss medicines can be dangerous for people with high blood pressure, but are relatively expensive, costing around AED380.5 (US$103.59). As a result, some pharmacists have failed to give adequate warnings to customers about the potential health risks of the treatments.
In the UAE, many drugs that are available over the counter would be sold as prescription-only in other countries. However, pharmacists are advised to warn customers about safety issues. Whereas such rules were often ignored at small pharmacies, this trend is now becoming more widespread.
Pharmacy groups have criticised the government's measures and have called for the health ministry to focus on reducing the manufacturer's cost of the medicines instead of the retail price. Some members have called for pharmacies in Dubai to be made exempt from the new price lists as higher living costs in the city has meant a further erosion of their profits.