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Health costs see sharp increase in Pakistan

Updated November 22, 2017
KARACHI: A man is buying medicines at a drugstore in this file photo. Medical bills rose at a higher rate than headline inflation in October, SBP data shows.
KARACHI: A man is buying medicines at a drugstore in this file photo. Medical bills rose at a higher rate than headline inflation in October, SBP data shows.

KARACHI: Despite subdued inflation, drug prices rose 15.68 per cent in October on a year-on-year basis.

The Inflation Monitor for October issued recently by the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) showed prices of medicines recorded the highest increase among all non-food contributors to headline inflation.

Overall inflation in October, measured through the Consumer Price Index (CPI), slowed down to 3.8pc on an annual basis. But inflation in the drug segment alone was over 15pc year-on-year. It was 7.8pc in October 2016.

Medical tests recorded inflation of 6.23pc in October while the clinic fee rose 5.75pc year-on-year, both higher than headline inflation.

In addition to local production, Pakistan also imports pharmaceutical products on a large scale. These imports face price fluctuations due to the exchange rate, but the rupee-dollar parity has largely remained stable for more than a year.

Drug prices lead the pack with highest rise in the basket

Imports of pharmaceutical products were $715.23 million in 2016, according to the United Nations COMTRADE database on international trade. The country’s exports of pharmaceutical products in 2016-17 were $225m.

According to the SBP report, charges of blood test, urine test and X-ray witnessed a 5-10pc increase in October on an annual basis.

Other important contributors to inflation were education that witnessed a hike of 11.46pc in October, motor fuel 9.69pc and house rent 6.49pc.

Motor fuel recorded a price decline of 7.5pc in October 2016.

Although the CPI slowed down to 3.8pc last month from 4.2pc a year ago, rising costs of medicines, fuel, housing and education have squeezed the income of an ordinary Pakistani.

Published in Dawn, November 22nd, 2017