Monday May 20, 2024

Pharmacists demand across-the-board price increase of imported medical products

By M. Waqar Bhatti
March 21, 2023

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan is facing an extreme shortage of imported medical products including general anaesthesia, plasma-derived products, various types of vaccines, cancer-treatment therapies, speciality hormones and cardiac enzymes as well as blood-thinning products like Heparin due to rising dollar-rupee disparity as importers are unable to supply them on the existing prices approved by the authorities, chemists and pharmacists said on Monday.

They said people were moving from pillar to post to get imported medicines, medical products and devices but due to massive increases in their prices internationally, traders were not ready to import them at the current prices, causing extreme shortage in the market as well as public and private health facilities. “Most of the imported medicines and medical products are not available locally due to massive increases in their prices in the international markets. On the other hand, Pakistani regulatory authorities, especially the Drug Regulatory Authority of Pakistan (DRAP) are not ready to adjust their prices as per global and local inflation”, Yousuf Ahmed, a hospital-based pharmacist said.

Asim Jamil, an importer of finished medical products and secretary general of the Pakistan Chemists and Druggists Association (PCDA), wrote a letter to the Drug Regulatory Authority of Pakistan (DRAP) to allow an ‘across the board’ increase in the prices of imported medical products, arguing that prices of imported medicines and medical products have gone up due to massive devaluation of the PKR, which is to the tune of 78% from July 2020 till date. “Their prices in the international market have also gone up due to various reasons, the main causes of which have been the Covid-19 pandemic, the Ukraine war, and an unprecedented rise in global inflation”, he said adding that if this issue was not resolved immediately, a medical disaster could occur. In the SOS message sent to the Chief Executive Officer of the DRAP Asim Rauf, PCDA office-bearer urged him to revisit the pricing policy and review the ‘cap of three years on hardship cases, as per the amended 2018 pricing policy. Asim Jamal said imported medical products are not locally manufactured and they are 100% impacted by devaluation, adding that historically, once a new high is reached, the PKR has never retreated.

“Based on documentary evidence, importers of medical products should be allowed to apply for hardship, as and when required. Kindly, also consider the current exchange rate of USD 1 = PKR 284, when addressing the pending hardship cases, and cases that have been approved in the DPC in the 53rd DPC, which are pending notification from the federal cabinet”, he said adding that their member companies have already started conveying their concerns to the Director Costing on this issue, as the PKR has devalued by a huge margin since the time when their applications were submitted.

He maintained that importers of finished pharmaceutical products are going through an extremely difficult phase. Despite the fact that they are very keen to serve the medical faculties and above all the patients their business operations are totally on the brink of collapse, he added.

In order to avert an imminent catastrophe, our association requests you to kindly address the following essential measures to ensure the continuity of life-saving products, Asim Jamal added. He maintained that the importers are facing a force majeure situation requiring an “across the board” price as an interim relief. “Products that have become unviable today, cannot be imported as they are not viable. The losses being borne by our members in public and private sector tenders is another factor why they are unable to continue supplies”, he added.

Commenting on the issue of imported products, an official of the DRAP said as per the directives from finance minister Ishaq Dar, who is heading a committee to resolve the medicines crisis, the Policy Board of DRAP would meet on March 24, 2023, to review the situation and take concerns of manufacturers and importers into consideration. “The medicine manufacturers and importers should wait for the outcome of the meeting of DRAP Policy Board”, the official added.