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April 9, 2019

Call for taking action againstmanufacturers overcharging for medicines

Karachi

April 9, 2019

Rejecting the allegations that drug manufacturers had arbitrarily increased prices of medicines, drug manufacturers on Monday said drug prices had been increased by the government after following all the due procedures, formalities, regulatory framework and in accordance with the latest drug regulatory pricing policy of the government after the cost of production of medicines became unbearable for them.

They also called upon the government to take action against those medicine manufacturers who are overcharging, but made it clear that the recent increase in drug prices by the Drug Regulatory Authority of Pakistan (Drap) and the Government of Pakistan was carried out following a due process, which was initiated by the Supreme Court to ensure that local drug manufacturers continue production after the increase in the manufacturing cost of drugs. “The increase in the prices of medicines was ordered by Drap and the government after following all the due procedures, formalities, regulatory framework and in accordance with the latest drug pricing policy of the government”, said Zahid Saeed, chairman of the Pakistan Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Association (PPMA) while addressing a news conference at a hotel.

Saeed said the government ordered 15 per cent increase in prices of locally produced medicines this January to ensure the survival of the pharmaceutical industry of the country facing serious economic challenges in its strive to produce quality drugs at affordable prices for local patients.

The increase in the prices of medicines had been in conformity with the several directions of the apex judiciary on the issue, he said, adding that in case the government had not allowed the much-needed relief to Pakistan’s medicine manufacturers in the form of 15 per cent increase in locally produced drugs, the public health care system of the country would have been in a shambles due to the unavailability of medicines. “The cost of production of the local pharma industry had increased manifold since 2018 due to an unprecedented decrease in the value of rupee as compared to the dollar while keeping in view the fact that up to 90 per cent raw material of the industry was imported,” he said.

“In the meanwhile, electricity tariff increased by 45 per cent, the natural gas bill increased by 65 per cent while diesel price also increased by 95 per cent, as all these factors also directly affect the cost of our production,” said the PPMA chairman.

He said that one should keep in mind that drugs produced in Pakistan had the lowest prices as compared to the rest of the world. “The media have done reporting in such a manner as if an unprecedented hike in the prices of medicines has been ordered. It is our duty to inform you that such propaganda could compel the Pakistani pharma industry to move outside the country, as has been the case of multinational drug manufacturers,” said Saeed. He said that in such a situation, it had become utterly difficult for local and foreign drug companies to introduce new medicines in the Pakistani market.

Apart from 15 per cent increase in prices of medicines, Drap had ordered the increase in prices of 450 medicines, as all their cases fall in the category of extreme hardship and special consideration was required to ensure continuous local manufacture of these essential drugs, as their cost of production went up phenomenally during the past 10 years due to various economic and business factors.

Saeed maintained that the increase in prices of these hardship medicines had been well in accordance with the Drug Pricing Policy 2018 and earlier directions of the SC on the issue.

He said that earlier, several locally manufactured medicines had virtually vanished from the market, as the government did not allow review on their prices for over a period of 10 years, while their cost of production kept on increasing, as their local production simply became infeasible for the pharma industry. Such cases included medicines required to treat life-threatening diseases and conditions of patients in the country.

The PPMA chairman said that the survival of Pakistan’s pharmaceutical industry had been equally beneficial for all the stakeholders, including the government, the public health care system, regulatory authorities and, most importantly, ailing citizens of the country who required quality medicines at affordable prices.

He said that the media, before unduly criticising the recent increase in the prices of medicines, should first keep in mind the beneficial role being played by the Pakistani pharma industry in terms of saving precious foreign exchange reserves of the country, which otherwise would have been spent on importing expensive foreign medicines, and by generating sizeable employment opportunities for qualified youth of Pakistan.

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