Govt scratches powers of pharmaceuticals to raise drugs prices

July 09, 2020

ISLAMABAD: The government has done away with the powers of pharmaceutical companies to increase the prices of drugs on their own despite the opposition of some cabinet members. In line with the...

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ISLAMABAD: The government has done away with the powers of pharmaceutical companies to increase the prices of drugs on their own despite the opposition of some cabinet members. In line with the directives from the prime minister, the government has also abolished all the sections of Drugs Pricing Policy, which clearly negates the Drugs Act 1976. Prime Minister Imran Khan was quite perturbed over the drugs prices that swelled in the last 10 months and owing to this very reason, the top man of the country had asked for reviewing the Drugs Pricing Policy. Under Para 7 of existing Drugs Pricing Policy, pharmaceutical companies had the powers to increase the drugs prices based on the consumers price index without approval from the ministry and to this effect they had to only inform the health ministry 30 days before about their decision with regard to increasing the price. Under the previous policy, it was mandatory to get approval from the ministry prior to issuance of the notification with regard to increase in the drugs prices.

In the federal cabinet that met on July 7, two cabinet members – Adviser to PM on Commerce, Textile and Investment Abdul Razak Dawood and Special Assistant to PM on Health Dr Zafar Mirza advocated saying that the powers should stay with pharmaceutical companies for increasing the medicines prices on their own, but Secretary Heath Aamer Ashraf Khawaja vehemently opposed the cabinet members and endorsed the abolishment of the powers earlier vested with the pharmaceutical companies to increase the prices saying the powers to increase prices of drugs should remain with the DRAP (Drug Regulatory Authority of Pakistan) and the Ministry of Health. Secretary also pleaded that the notification with regard to increase in prices should be issued by the government of Pakistan.

According to the official documents, Special Assistant PM on Health Dr Zafar Mirza and Adviser to PM on Commerce, Textile and Investment Razak Dawood opposed the move for doing away with the powers of pharmaceutical companies to increase prices of medicines, but on behalf of Ministry of Health, a summary was moved seeking omission of Para-7 of Drugs Pricing Policy 2018, but SAPM to PM on Health Dr Zafar Mirza managed to get the summary dropped from the agenda of the federal cabinet meeting took up on June 24.

However, Prime Minister Imran Khan who is also Minister-in-charge of National Health Services, Regulations and Coordination (NHSR&C) on July 2, 2020 summoned an exclusive meeting with regard to fixing the drugs prices. In that particular meeting, the Ministry of Health had declared the powers of pharmaceutical companies to increase the prices as mentioned in the Para 7 of Drugs pricing Policy as against the section 12 of Drugs Act 1976 saying that the Ministry of Health has the legal right to issue the notification for any raise in the drugs prices. The two said cabinet members opposed the Health Ministry’s summary arguing that with removal of the powers to increase prices, pharmaceutical companies will be left on the mercy of bureaucracy in the ministry.

As per the documents, on July 2, 2020, the meeting was attended by SAPM on NHS, R & C, Members of Task Force on Health, Secretary M/o NHS, R&C and Chief Executive Officer of Drug Regulatory Authority (DRAP).



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