Health minister warns of agitation over costly medicines

By M. Waqar Bhatti
September 23, 2023

MURREE: Caretaker Health Minister Dr Nadeem Jan has warned of public outrage in the wake of rising cost of medicines. “As pharmaceutical industry is asking for raise in medicines prices, citing increase in cost of production, we have decided to conduct a forensic analysis of the cost of production and prices at which medicines are being sold in the country. We also want pharma industry and Drug Regulatory Authority of Pakistan (DRAP) to sit together and engage in a meaningful dialogue on the issue of medicines pricing,” said Dr Nadeem Jan.


Speaking at the open session organized as part of the mid-summer meeting of the Pakistan Society of Internal Medicine (PSIM), the federal health minister maintained that he had ordered a forensic analysis of the medicine prices issue to ascertain the number of medicines being imported in the country.

It is a sweeping statement that 209 medicines are not available because they are not financially viable to the manufacturers, he said.

He claimed that hardly a few medicines were affected due to rupee-dollar disparity. The minister said he was very well aware of the medicine issue in the country and added that the government was working on short and long-term strategies to resolve the issue for once and all.

“We are going to establish a pharma park with public private partnership, for which land has been identified and incentives would be offered to the pharmaceutical industry for local production of raw material of medicines as well as local production of new molecules in the country,” he said adding that he was already in contact with friendly nations for the transfer of technology in the pharmaceutical sector.

He told the participants of the meeting that a few days back, he bought a strip of a medicine costing Rs1600 while the production cost of the strip was not more than Rs100.

“We have launched a helpline and an app is being used by people to record their complaints regarding medicines’ unavailability,” he added.

Caretaker Punjab Health Minister Prof. Javed Akram disclosed that many life-saving drugs had vanished from the market, claiming that drugs like heparin, insulin, lithium and other essential medicines were hard to find in the markets.

“Similarly, we are facing defaults on part of pharmaceutical companies, which had agreed to provide medicines to the government institutions,” he said and added that they had asked the companies to fulfill 70 percent of their agreements and government would issue new tenders for supply of medicines.

Claiming that Pakistan’s pharmaceutical industry is a repackaging industry, Prof. Javed Akram deplored that there was no biotechnology plant for medicines’ production while neighbouring India had 300 while China had 3000 biotechnology plants.

Pharmaceutical industry leaders urged the government to decide the 209 hardship cases, which had been forwarded by the DRAP to the health ministry to ensure availability of the medicines to the people at the earliest.