South Africa’s constitutional court has ruled on the country’s medicines pricing regulations in what appears to have been a partial victory for the Department of Health.

The matter was taken to court by the Pharmaceutical Society of South Africa, Netcare Group and New Clicks, which argued that pharmacists would suffer if the regulations were passed. All medicines manufacturers were required to establish a so-called single exit price for their drug, and pharmacists could add to the SEP a dispensing fee, which was capped at 26 rand for items on prescription, whose price is greater than R100, and 26% if the price was lower than R100.

Although the Government’s mission is a laudable one - to make medicines in South Africa more affordable and accessible to the consumer – the pharmacists argued in court that the dispensing fee had been set so low as to effectively put them out of business, particularly in rural areas.

It has been a bitter battle over many months, but the constitutional court has taken the middle ground, reports the country’s Sunday Independent. Although the current medicines pricing regulations have been declared invalid, the law has not been scrapped, and the Court has asked that the dispensing fee be revisited by Government. Manto Tshabalala-Msimang, the minister of health, told the Sunday Independent: “The judgement cannot be interpreted to say the department was wrong. In fact, it says the department was correct in trying to bring down prices so that they are affordable.”