ISLAMABAD, Nov 20: Due to a deadlock on price negotiation between the Ministry of Health Services and Pakistan Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Association (PPMA), medicines are now being sold in the black market.

The PPMA has been demanding an increase in the prices of medicines for the past two months.

However, the Drug Regulatory Authority Pakistan (DRAP) is not willing to do so stating that increased prices would put an additional financial burden on people.

Therefore, even the most common medicine, Panadol (used for curing headaches) is being sold in the black market after its production halted 15 days ago.

Jamshed Awan, a citizen, told Dawn that a doctor had suggested Panadol for his mother who was suffering from high blood pressure and had frequent headaches.

He went to a medical store to buy the medicine but the salesman told him that the drug was not available as the company had stopped manufacturing.

“I then went to another medical store and asked for the drug. The salesman had the medicine but was not willing to sell the regular pack of ten Panadol tablets for Rs7.

Instead, he charged Rs3 per tablet, meaning that medical stores are asking for four times the actual price,” Mr Awan said.

Sheraz Ahmed, a medical store owner, said six million tablets of Panadol were manufactured everyday. Quoting a wholesale dealer, he said the company had stopped manufacturing the tablets for the past two weeks due to which the tablet was not being sold on market rate.

“Retailers have no choice but to buy the tablets from the black market as other medicines are also being sold the same way,” he said.

Naming a few, he said Disprol (a painkiller) was not in the market for the past three years, but the company had recently started manufacturing the drug hoping that its price would increase.

Similarly, another painkiller, Optalidon, was not available in the market for the past three months but was being sold in the black market.

An officer of the Ministry Of Health Services, requesting not to be identified, said although the ministry of health was devolved in 2011, most of its functions were stopped long before the 18th amendment (in 2010) because the bureaucracy knew health would soon become a provincial subject.

“Registration of new products was also stopped due to which some companies had a monopoly and controlled drug prices,” he said.

“On the other hand, genuine demands for an increase in price were also ignored. Now, the PPMA is demanding an increase in prices of drugs across the board, which is unfair,” he said.

Chairman PPMA Nasir Javed Chaudhry, while talking to Dawn, said negotiations were going on with DRAP but it seemed it would take more time to reach a decision.

“From 1994 to 2001, prices of medicines were increased by six per cent on a yearly basis but after 2001, the policy was revised and the ministry that companies should present separate cases (for increasing prices) for each medicine,” he said.

He said Pakistan imported 80 per cent of the raw material needed for manufacturing drugs, and exported medicines worth $180 million. “Government should encourage this industry. Otherwise, it will be impossible to pay even the salaries of our staff,” he said.

Chief Executive Officer DRAP while talking to Dawn said there were speculations in the media that prices would be increased by 10 to 15 per cent.

“Pricing of medicine is simple mathematics. We have to look into the quality of medicine, manufacturing cost, purchasing power of people and other issues before fixing the price. PPMA is in touch with DRAP and negotiations are going one but prices cannot be increased across the board,” he maintained.

“Also, Minister of Health Services Saira Afzal Tarar instructed that the issue should be resolved without putting an extra burden on the public,” he added.

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