SC requested to take over all cases about medicine prices

Published November 18, 2013
The conflicting judgments/ observations of the high courts, the application argued, were making it difficult for the DRAP to control the prices of drugs in a uniform manner. 
— File Photo
The conflicting judgments/ observations of the high courts, the application argued, were making it difficult for the DRAP to control the prices of drugs in a uniform manner. — File Photo

ISLAMABAD: The government has requested the Supreme Court to take over all cases pending in various courts about increase in prices of medicines because the Drug Regulatory Authority of Pakistan (DRAP) is facing problems due to conflicting verdicts/observations on the matter.

An application has been filed by Deputy Attorney General Sajid Ilyas Bhatti on behalf of the DRAP in a pending suo motu case on price hike, requesting the apex court to take over all petitions and civil suits pending in different courts and deliver a uniform judgment on the issue.

Under Section 12(3) of the Drugs Act 1976, the government, which has the authority to fix maximum retail prices of drugs, has approved formation of drug pricing committee of the authority to fix and review maximum retail prices.

After the devolution of health ministry in June 2011 through the 18th constitution amendment, the Drug Control Organisation was placed under the administrative control of the cabinet division till the formation of the DRAP. The authority was set up when former president Asif Ali Zardari promulgated the DRAP Ordinance on Feb 17, 2012, to regulate pharmaceutical companies.

The law was introduced after the court took suo motu notice of the death of over 100 patients at the Punjab Institute of Cardiology in Lahore either because of consumption of spurious drugs or wrong prescription of blood-thinning and lipid-lowering medicines in January that year.

In October of 2011, there were reports of an exorbitant price increase by some manufacturers without taking approval from the competent authority assuming that there was no regulatory authority in place.

The application filed by the DRAP stated that those manufacturers were directed through notices to explain their position before the drug pricing committee. But they obtained restraining orders from the Lahore High Court (LHC) on the pretext that prices of some drugs had not been notified in the official gazette by the defunct health ministry and therefore the government had no control over pricing. The cabinet division contested the cases before the high court which ordered its secretary to fix and notify the prices of the drugs after providing an opportunity of hearing to the manufacturers.

Accordingly, the committee fixed the prices of different drugs through a notification on March 30, 2012.

But when the regulatory authority asked a pharmaceutical company, Roche Pakistan, to reduce the price of their product ‘Pegasys’ from Rs13,000 to Rs6,500 per vial, the firm obtained a restraining order from the Sindh High Court (SHC) on June 13, 2012.

Later more manufacturers increased their prices exorbitantly and obtained restraining orders from the LHC on the pretext that their prices had not been notified in the official gazette.

The application stated that the committee fixed prices of 92 drugs through a notification on July 30, 2012 after considering the manufacturers’ point of view at meetings on June 26 and July 3 that year and keeping in view the interest of people. But the companies filed civil suits in the SHC which restrained the DRAP from taking action against the companies for their refusal to adhere to the fixed prices.

The conflicting judgments/ observations of the high courts, the application argued, were making it difficult for the DRAP to control the prices of drugs in a uniform manner.

It pleaded that since the licensing, registration, import, export, quality control and fixation of prices of drugs came under the ambit of the DRAP which was supervised by the National Health Services Regulations and Coordination Division headquartered in Islamabad, only the Islamabad High Court had the jurisdiction to decide such matters.

The application argued that people would suffer if the high courts were not called upon for early disposal of cases. It requested the court to take over all pending cases and also decide that only the IHC had the jurisdiction to deal with cases relating to medicines.

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