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Delays in medicines customs clearance put lives at risk

Delays in medicines customs clearance put lives at risk

RIYADH: The Ministry of Health has urged officials at the Ministry of Finance to clear much needed heart and allergy medicines held back by customs at Saudi ports because “lives are at risk.”

The Health Ministry said the medicines are not being allowed into the country because the batches do not have the logo of the exporting company.

Health Minister Abdullah Al-Rabeeah has asked the Finance Ministry to exempt certain types of medication from some customs regulations.

“There should be some exemptions in this regard to allow these medicines into the country because patients’ lives are at risk,” Al-Rabeeah said.

He said the delays are costing importers more money in terms of fines and storage, and are having an “adverse effect” on the efficacy of the medicines.

The Saudi market for medicines is worth SR14.5 billion annually. “But local plants only produce 20 percent of this market,” he said.

Abdulelah Al-Malik, vice chairman of the Council of Saudi Chambers’ pharmaceutical industries national committee, said the customs department delayed three shipments of medicines for King Faisal Specialist Hospital, the Military Hospital, the Security Forces Hospital and the Royal Commission for Yanbu and Jubail.

“These medicines are for the treatment of allergies and critical heart conditions. There are only small quantities coming into the Kingdom that are not available domestically. They should ensure these medicines can enter the country quickly.”

Al-Malik said he held a meeting with Muhammad Al-Mishal, chief executive officer of the Saudi Food and Drug Authority (SFDA) and Saleh Bawazir, the SFDA’s executive vice president of the pharmaceutical sector, to explain the situation.

He said the Health Ministry should support local drug producing plants by offering incentives for investors to provide at least 40 percent of the market. This would also ensure “medicine security in the country in the long run.” He said there are 14 drug-manufacturing plants in the country.