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NAB to probe exponential hike in drug prices

By Newsdesk
April 24, 2019

ISLAMABAD: The National Accountability Bureau (NAB) has decided to investigate possible corruption responsible for the exponential rise in the prices of medicines and their shortage which is adversely affecting the common man.

The chief of the anti-corruption watchdog, Justice (retd) Javed Iqbal on Tuesday took notice of the “unprecedented” increase in the medicine prices and ordered an investigation into alleged corruption in the Ministry of National Health Services, Regulations and Coordination and Drug Regulatory Authority of Pakistan (DRAP).

A NAB spokesman, quoting Iqbal, said the abrupt increase of up to 300 per cent in the prices had made the essential medicines out of the reach of the common man.

In another development, Special Assistant to the PM on National Health Services Dr Zafarullah Mirza briefed the federal cabinet on his findings regarding the increase in drug prices.

Special Assistant to PM on Information Firdous Ashiq Awan at a media briefing on cabinet meeting said drugs prices would be brought down to realistic level in the near future after consultation with all stakeholders. For this purpose, she said a meeting would be held with the representatives of pharmaceutical companies and other stakeholders.

The PM’s aide said the additional amount charged by pharmaceutical companies would be recovered by the government and deposited with the Pakistan Baitul Maal for free of cost treatment of poor patients.

Answering a question, she said if the government was not worried about hike in drug prices, the Prime Minister would not have removed his close aide from the post of health minister.

About other cabinet decisions, she said Prime Minister Imran Khan had directed his cabinet members to introduce policies in the public interest and improve their performance in order to resolve public issues.

Awan said the Prime Minister had already assigned targets to his economic team led by Adviser on Finance Dr Hafeez Sheikh to create a people-friendly budget.

She said the Prime Minister had a clear vision of keeping national interest supreme at all costs. Awan said the cabinet also discussed Prime Minister’s forthcoming visit to China. She said the cabinet was also briefed on inflation and rising prices of essential items. The cabinet decided to have check on the prices of essential commodities during the holy month of Ramadan.

The PM’s aide said the cabinet also discussed LNG (liquefied natural gas) agreements signed by the previous government, which were very expensive and not in the interest of Pakistan. The new LNG agreements would be transparent, based on competitive pricing as the national interest would be kept supreme, she added.

The special assistant said the cabinet endorsed the policies of Prime Minister Khan and his vision of corruption-free democracy, which was meant only to empower the common man and resolve their problems. She thanked the Iranian leadership for supporting Pakistan’s stance on the Kashmir issue.

Answering a question about the proposed asset declaration scheme, she said it would be finalised by the new economic team and then presented to relevant forum for approval soon.