ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and some of the stakeholders of the health sector have criticised a sudden increase in prices of various medicines and urged the government to withdraw the decision as middle and lower classes would suffer the most because of it.
Senator Mustafa Nawaz Khokhar, the spokesman for PPP chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari, has said that the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) government is preying on the people by hiking the prices.
The Drug Regulatory Authority of Pakistan (Drap) on Friday had announced up to 15 per cent increase in prices of various medicines.
He said the constant increase in prices of goods was unacceptable and would not be tolerated. The government first snatched the calm of the people and was now snatching their lives by increasing the prices of medicines, he said.
“The government’s only performance has been taking from the people the facilities provided to them. In the guise of claims of providing people with five million houses, the government has only rendered people homeless,” Senator Khokhar said.
He said that the government’s conduct had been disappointing and it was only a matter of time that the people of Pakistan would start protesting against the injustice and biased attitude of the PTI rule. The government had proven itself to be a destructive tsunami, he concluded.
Secretary General of the Pakistan Medical Association Dr Qaisar Sajjad has stated that the association was very much concerned over the hike in medicine prices.
“The government should find other ways to minimise the effect of increasing the cost of medicines because of the rupee’s devaluation. It could be done by supporting pharmaceutical companies by reducing taxes and duty on import of raw materials for manufacturing drugs. Vaccines and raw materials should be produced locally. Fake and counterfeit drugs and smuggling of medicines should be eliminated on a priority basis,” Dr Sajjad said.
Pakistan Islamic Medical Association’s president Prof Afzal Mian said the rising inflation had exposed the government’s inability to plan for welfare of the nation. Even if the excuse of devaluation was accepted, it is deplorable that the crunch was yet again transferred to the people who were struggling to survive, he added.
However, Pharma Bureau’s Executive Director Ayesha Tammy Haq while talking to Dawn said that the increase was not sufficient as most of the medicine prices were increased by 9pc while the rupee was devalued by over 30pc.
“Chief Justice of Pakistan Mian Saqib Nisar had also directed the government and Drap to increase the prices of medicines, considering the hike in the dollar’s value and finally it has been done,” she said.
Ms Haq said that although the increase was not sufficient it would help the pharmaceutical companies to survive. “We expect that the prices will be further increased at the end of the financial year, considering the Consumer Price Index,” she said.
In reply to a question, she said that the government could have reduced the taxes rather than passing the burden to patients, but it did not go for that option.
Published in Dawn, January 13th, 2019