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January 12, 2019

Medicine prices go up by 9 to 15%


January 12, 2019

Islamabad : The government’s tall claims to make healthcare affordable for the poor stood exposed Friday, with the Drug Regulatory Authority of Pakistan (DRAP), which is headed by one of the most controversial yet well-connection figures, justifying the 9-15 percent raise in the retail prices of various medicines notified by the government.

“The current increase in the retail prices of medicines is attributed to the up to 30% increase in the value of the US dollar last year. Accordingly, the prices of raw materials and materials used in packaging of medicines have also increased. Similarly, due to rise in prices of utility bills such as electricity and gas, the manufacturing cost per unit has also increased. Moreover, increase in additional duties, interest rates and salaries of the employees has been observed,” a spokesman of DRAP has explained in a press release justifying the government’s decision.

Furthermore, the DRAP spokesman has argued that since most of the pharmaceutical raw materials are imported from China, and the Chinese industry has been closed due to environmental reasons, the prices of raw materials have doubled. “This has affected the availability of medicines and vaccines in Pakistan. The most common reason for this unavailability was that pharmaceutical companies considered it no more commercially viable for them to manufacture such medicines. Therefore, multinational companies are retreating and investment opportunities are also being affected. However, DRAP ensured availability of life-saving medicine on priority,” the spokesman states in the press release.

According to DRAP, the pharmaceutical industry was demanding increase in prices of medicines ever since the increase in the rate of US Dollar. “DRAP tried to maintain status quo and resisted the increase. However, keeping in view the unavailability of medicines in the market and reasons that are beyond the control of either the regulator or the manufacturer such as increase in US Dollar, and increased prices of raw materials, DRAP has recommended a ‘nominal increase’ in the retail prices,” the spokesman adds.

Justifying the increase, DRAP further stated that “the national pharmaceutical industry fulfils 90 percent of the medicinal needs of the country. Thus, recommendations were necessary to save the industry.”

So while DRAP has effectively saved the interests of the pharmaceutical industry, it has done so at the cost of the poor masses, who are already suffocating under the rising cost of living. Gas and electricity are just as expensive for the poor as they are for the pharmaceutical giants who are squeezing the blood out of the veins of poor people. What DRAP terms as a ‘nominal increase’ will render medical treatment further beyond the reach of the underprivileged who can ill-afford the outrageously expensive life-saving medicines, should they require them.

Reacting to the development, some people were of the view that the pharmaceutical industry’s greed, which is killing citizens, needs to be controlled on a war footing. “These companies offer a drug for Rs50 in hospitals, while the retail price of the same drug is Rs300 for the patient. Such is the extent of their heartless exploitation!” an insider stated.

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