NAIROBI, June 22 (Xinhua) -- Kenya is set to have guidelines on parallel importation of medicinal substance in the next three months, an official said on Wednesday.

Fred Siyoi, the Deputy Registrar of the Pharmacy and Poisons Board, said the guidelines will help reinforce the existing act on parallel importation that has been abused in the past.

"All medicine importers will henceforth be required to avail their consignments for inspection at the port of entry to ensure that the imported products retain their quality, safety and efficacy," Siyoi said in Nairobi at a stakeholders' meeting.

Parallel importation is the importation of a medicinal substance by an importer outside the manufacturer's or its licensed distributor's formal channels.

According to the World Health Organization, parallel imports often takes place when there is differential pricing of the same products -- either brand-name or generic drugs -- in different markets, usually owing to local manufacturing costs or market conditions.

In the recent past, Kenya's regulation of parallel importation of trademarked medicinal substance has become a contentious issue involving conflicting principles and policies that required a review to ensure that the regulation continues to serve the public interest.

Siyoi said that lack of guidelines had led to pharmacists in the country selling medicine at the prices that were not dictated by the market.

"We have witnessed instances where importers concentrate in economic value by taking advantage of price difference between markets to capitalize upon the imbalance to gain profit," Siyoi said.

He added that stakeholders had focused on the economic issues of parallel imports rather than a critical analysis of the value of parallel imports to patients in a broader context.

"The guidelines are set to determine the cost benefit to the patients and not merely making gains by the importers," Siyoi said.

Wilberforce Wanyanga, a pharmaceutical expert with the UN Industrial Development Organization, said that the guideline will help close the window for counterfeit medicine in the country.

"This move is likely to help protect patients by availing medicines at a cheaper price," Wanyanga added.

The Chairman of Kenya Pharmaceutical Association, Kamamia Muricho, said the development of a guideline in parallel imports can reduce the price of health products and pharmaceuticals by introducing competition.

He said that patients with non-communication diseases were the most affected as the price of medicine kept varying.

"The guideline now stands to benefit Kenyans outside Nairobi and Mount Kenya region as they will access medicine cheaply," he said.

Muricho lamented that it was unfortunate that many patients sold their properties including land to enable them to access good treatment.

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