PESHAWAR: A Peshawar High Court bench on Thursday suspended until further orders the Drug Regulatory Authority of Pakistan’s recent notification allowing pharmaceutical companies to increase medicine prices by 15 per cent.

Justice Ikramullah Khan and Justice Mussarat Hilali asked the government to ensure strict compliance with the court’s order.

The bench ruled that strict action should be taken if any pharmaceutical company tried to create the shortage of essential drugs in the market.

Asks govt to act if any company tries to create shortage of essential drugs

The bench issued notices to the secretary of the National Health Services and Regulations Ministry and Drap chief executive seeking their replies to a petition filed by a resident of Peshawar, Asmatullah Khan, who requested the court to declare illegal the impugned notification issued on Jan 10 by the Drap.

The bench fixed Feb 5 for the next hearing into the petition.

The petitioner requested the court to declare the notification a violation of Articles 9 and 38(D) of the Constitution, which said no person should be deprived of life or liberty; and, that the State should provide basic necessities of life such as food, clothes and medical relief to its citizens.

The respondents in the petition are the federation of Pakistan through secretary of the National Health Services Ministry; Drap through its chief executive; Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government through chief secretary; provincial health secretary; director general (health services), and Drap director (costing and pricing).

Noor Alam Khan, lawyer for the petitioner, said on Jan 10, the Drap had increased drug prices by exercising its power under Section 7 of the Drug Regulatory Authority of Pakistan Act, 2012, read with Section 12 of the Drug Act, 1976.

He said the Drap had approved nine per cent hike in the prices of lifesaving medicines, whereas 15 per cent hike was approved for other medicines.

The lawyer said it was distressing that instead of providing any relief to people and general poor public, the government had increased drug prices though old prices were already unaffordable, while 50 per cent of the country’s population lived below poverty line and suffered from inflation and economic crisis.

He said increasing price through impugned notification was unreasonable, contrary to the law and liable to be declared to be ultra vires.

The lawyer said the notification was issued by the Drap without fixing any structure for calculation of prices and taking into consideration other relevant matters, which were essential for determination.

He said drug prices were increased due to a nexus existing between Drap and pharmaceutical companies and that the Drap possessed very wide, absolute and unbridled powers for determining medicine prices.

The lawyer said while fixing medicine prices, the unfettered and absolute discretion of Drap needed to be structuralised.

He added that many countries had adopted generic medicine long ago and were reaping benefits.

The lawyer requested the court to suspend the notification until the final disposal of the writ petition.

Published in Dawn, February 1st, 2019

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