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Drug price hike

June 12, 2019

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THIS is apropos the news item ‘Recent increase in drug prices capped at 75pc’ (May 17). The prices of drugs are fixed by the Drug Regulatory Authority of Pakistan (DRAP) under drug laws which provide necessary mechanisms while registering a drug before marketing.

Three drug pricing policies giving the basis, mechanism and formula on price calculation had been officially notified in the press by the national ministry of health services and DRAP for a period of about five years from 2015-2020. It failed to resolve the price control issue to date.

In view of the above DRAP failures, the federal ombudsman in 2016 undertook to implement the globally-accepted WHO essential drug scheme for the availability of essential life-saving drugs of standard quality at affordable prices. This scheme, launched in 1981, was adopted and successfully implemented by Kenya and Bangladesh in 1986 and 1987 respectively, but not by Pakistan.

The federal ombudsman constituted an expert committee of stakeholders of trade and industry, including representatives of the ministry of national health services and DRAP CEO to make use of this scheme. This committee after deliberations of over one year prepared a report to be submitted to the then President of Pakistan for approval which was approved by him for implementation by the ministry of health services and DRAP in 2017.

It is over two years now that the fate of this report is not known. In spite of these failures and non-implementation of policies to control drug prices by the DRAP, we are introducing another national medicine policy.

While we go on experimenting with pricing policies with one more policy ignoring the ground realities, the miseries of hapless patients are compounding because of shortage of life-saving drugs.

This shows DRAP’s lack of capability to control drug prices.

Dr Inam ul Haq

Ex-Drug Controller,

Ministry of Health, Islamabad

Published in Dawn, June 12th, 2019