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Despite claim, govt may not be able to bring down drug prices

Updated April 12, 2019

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Minister for NHS Aamer Mehmood Kiani said the Drug regulatory Authority of Pakistan (Drap) had seized stocks of overpriced medicines in different cities, including Peshawar, Karachi, Lahore, Faisalabad and Multan. — INP/File
Minister for NHS Aamer Mehmood Kiani said the Drug regulatory Authority of Pakistan (Drap) had seized stocks of overpriced medicines in different cities, including Peshawar, Karachi, Lahore, Faisalabad and Multan. — INP/File

ISLAMABAD: Ministry of National Health Services (NHS) has once again claimed that the prices of medicines would be reduced and stern action would be taken against pharmaceutical companies for raising the prices.

The ministry issued a statement after directions issued by Prime Minister Imran Khan to cut the drug prices within 72 hours.

Minister for NHS Aamer Mehmood Kiani said the Drug regulatory Authority of Pakistan (Drap) had seized stocks of overpriced medicines in different cities, including Peshawar, Karachi, Lahore, Faisalabad and Multan. He said he himself raided and seized overpriced drugs in Islamabad.

Read: Govt acts against 59 pharmaceutical firms, seizes drugs

Health ministry says action will be taken against pharmaceutical companies for raising prices

However, an official of Drap, requesting not to be quoted told Dawn thatthe prices of medicines had been increased after approval by the government. He feared that the prices may not be reduced.

“Past experience shows that once increased the prices are hardly reduced. In 2013 a notification to increase the prices by 15 per cent was issued but the very next day the then prime minister Nawaz Sharif directed to withdraw the notification.

“Though the notification was withdrawn some companies approached court and obtained stay orders and never reduced the prices,” he said.

“Recently, Drap changed prices of over 800 medicines. After analysing the cost of raw material and prices at the international market it was decided to increase the prices of over 400 medicines. A decision was also made to decrease prices of around 397 medicines because prices of their raw materials had decreased by almost five to 10 times.”

The official said the companies increased the prices of over 400 medicines for which they had been allowed but did not decrease the prices of the 397 and approached court to obtain a stay.

As a result, there was criticism across the country against the government.

“Now we have been raiding warehouses of pharmaceutical companies but most of them show us stay orders obtained from courts. So the prices of 400 medicines have been increased but that around 400 other medicines are not being reduced,” said the official.

“The ministry and Drap should have first ensured that the prices of 400 medicines were decreased and after that allowed the firms to increase the prices of around 400 other medicines. It would have neutralised the situation or at least we would have been in a position to say that prices of around 400 medicines have been decreased.”

He said it was almost impossible to reduce the prices as pharmaceutical companies would prefer going to courts rather than reducing the prices.

Published in Dawn, April 12th, 2019