GEORGE NEWS - Danie Erasmus received a nasty surprise when he went to buy his usual folic acid supplement this month and discovered that the price of 100 tablets, which he had paid R20 for in February, had jumped to R80.
"I bought it at the pharmacy at Checkers Hyper (George) and afterwards also enquired at Pharma Warehouse and Dis-Chem, and everywhere it was the same," said Erasmus.
According to local consultant pharmacist Corrie Cornelissen, the price of folic acid has gone up by about 322%, but he said it was "dirt cheap" before. "Even if a manufacturer sold 1 000, they would only make a couple of rand."
Notice of the price increase was received last year already, but pharmacies have been selling old stock at the old price. One of the brand names that had a price increase is BE-Tabs Folic Acid 5mg, which went up from R24 to between R86 and R88, according to Cornelissen.
In a notification to a local pharmacy, the supplier of BE-Tabs, Ranbaxy SA, explains that the price increase was as a result of folic acid being rescheduled from a Schedule 0 to a Schedule 1 substance in terms of the new Medicines Control Council regulations. This has resulted in BE-Tabs obtaining a single exit price (SEP), which means that the same price (per tablet) is charged, no matter if a pharmacy buys in bulk or smaller batches.
"Furthermore, the manufacturer is only allowed to increase the price once a year by between 1,85% and 3,5%, or half the inflation rate. Registering a substance with the Medicines Control Council also means that the manufacturer has to pay an annual fee to the council, pushing up costs. This is why there is sometimes a shortage of some products. It is not worth it for manufacturers to import them, especially when the rand weakens."
He says that cheap multivitamins that contain folic acid will also become more expensive, and it is not the end. Government is systematically registering all supplements and 'alternative' medicines. The affordable and trusted Chamberlains Colic Remedy that has been used for generations, has disappeared from our shelves as a result, and Kemodene, which has subsequently replaced it in many homes, is now also becoming more difficult to find.
There are lower dosage folic acid tablets (0,5mg) available that the public can still buy for about R30 for 100 tablets.
"One of these tablets daily is sufficient for people younger than 50. People over 50, who need between 1mg and 2mg, can take two of these tablets.
"Folic acid is needed for nerve function and is also taken for memory loss, dementia and illnesses such as Alzheimer's."
ARTICLE: ALIDA DE BEER, GEORGE HERALD JOURNALIST
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