THIS is with reference to the news item ‘Vested interests scuttled crucial medical project’ (Oct, 24) whereby a project of local production of interferon was scuttled at an advanced stage, allegedly at the behest of multi-national companies.
I am a social worker who is actively engaged in holding free medical camps for screening of hepatitis patients and am very much aware of the woes of hapless patients who cannot afford costly interferon.
The current market of hepatitis is worth about two billion rupees, and multinational companies have captured more than 70 per cent of the market.
The local availability of interferon at Rs70, as claimed by renowned molecular biologist Dr Riazuddin, would have caused a telling blow to the interest of multinational companies.
This story makes me believe that in the Third World countries the multinational companies are reigning in connivance with corrupt bureaucrats under the patronage of dishonest ministries.
The ministry officials ensure that generic drugs are not sold so that far costlier branded drugs can have a monopoly in the market and hapless marginalised segments of society keep paying more. This connivance was exposed when the National Assembly’s Public Accounts Committee took notice of a failure of local interferon project.
Recently, the federal government in a landmark decision reduced the prices of 92 pharmaceutical products and the necessary notification [SRO 862(1) 863(1)] was duly issued on July 13, 2012.
The price of one of the interferons, Pegyses, that of a multinational company, was also reduced from Rs13,000 to Rs6,500 but till date all in vain as the drug company managed to keep its price intact with the support of the ministry of national regulation and services.
The ministry concerned is not only providing patronage but is actively trying to reverse the prices to Rs13,000. The Chief Justice must take suo motu notice of these connections and come to the rescue of marginalised segment of society which cannot withstand the onslaught of big multinational companies.
This scandal is bigger than the ephedrine scam but since no bigger names are involved, the media and our legal fraternity are not bothered about implementation of the said notifications, and powerful drug companies are siphoning off millions of rupees daily.
MIAN AFTAB AHMED Chairman, Pakistan Kamzat Mahaz Lahore