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January 13, 2019

Medical fraternity, public reject rise in medicine prices


January 13, 2019

Rejecting the 15 per cent increase in the prices of medicines by the Drug Regulatory Authority of Pakistan (Drap), the health fraternity and common people remarked that instead of providing any relief to the people, the present government was adding to their miseries.

Drap issued a notification on Friday to announce an increase in the prices of medicines produced by the local and multinational pharmaceutical companies by nine to 15 per cent.

Explaining the rationale behind its decision, the drug authority said raising the prices of medicines was unavoidable owing to the increase in the prices of raw material and the production cost of the local manufacturing of drugs.

Following the issuance of the notification, many pharmacies immediately started charging new prices even though the pharmaceutical companies are yet to announce their new prices and inscribe them on the packets. The Drap notification clearly states that the revised prices of medicines have to be clearly mentioned on the packets of medicines


Medical associations

The Pakistan Medical Association (PMA) and Pakistan Islamic Medical Association (PIMA) have strongly reacted to the increase in drug prices.

The associations warned the government that such a step would cause further deterioration in the status of healthcare in Pakistan as people would not be able to afford drugs for themselves and their loved ones facing chronic ailments.

PMA Secretary General Dr Qaiser Sajjad said instead of providing any relief to the public, the government had increased the prices of medicines that were already out of reach of the poor people.

“The painful aspect of this development is that the prices of life saving drugs have also been increased. In such conditions when there is scarcity of health facilities at the public hospitals, this increment of medicine prices will add to the miseries of the people,” Dr Sajjad said, demanding that the government review its decision and withdraw the notification of the increment in drug prices.

PIMA President Prof Afzal Mian and Secretary General Khubaib Shahid also expressed concerns over the nine-to-15-per-cent increase in medicine prices by Drap. They said additional taxes had been levied on the pharmaceutical sector in addition to the devaluation of Pakistani rupee against the dollar, due which the cost of production of medicines had risen.

The PIMA office bearers said the healthcare deserved subsidy by the government as it was an essential sector. Despite of inflation, the drug prices should not have been raised because the pharmaceutical companies were making enough profits, they maintained.

According to the PIMA office bearers, even if the pharmaceutical industry was facing issues, such problems should have been resolved through easing taxes and subsidising the manufacturing and imports of medicines. Inflation should be addressed by raising taxes on luxuries and non-essential items rather than medicines, they said, asking the government to review its decision of increasing drug prices.

Public concern

People from different walks of life have also condemned the Drap’s decision of increasing the prices of common and essential medicines. They are of the view that after the increases in the prices of natural gas, CNG and other commodities, the current government had also made healthcare unaffordable for the poor and middle socio-economic classes of society.

Exchanges of angry remarks between customers and retailers were witnessed at many pharmacies after they started charging new prices. The customers argued that unless new prices were announced or rate lists issued by the pharmaceutical companies, the medical stores could not charge the customers extra prices for the medicines.

“Today, I went to buy some medicines for my sick child from a reputed pharmacy on MA Jinnah Road where they offer heavy discounts on medicines but they charged me 15 per cent extra on the drugs which I had been buying for the last few weeks,” said Muzaffar Ahmed, the father of a child undergoing treatment at a private hospital.

He added that when he protested, the staff at the store showed him the Drap notification. “Prices on the packs of medicines had been changed with a black marker.”

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