ISLAMABAD: Amid criticism of the government regarding the sudden increase in medicine prices, an official from the Drug Regulatory Authority of Pakistan (Drap) has written to the prime minister saying that drugs are being sold at exorbitant prices.

In a letter, Drap Deputy Director Dr Obaid Ali wrote that he is writing to the premier because the National Health Services (NHS) secretary and minister have not responded to several of his requests on this matter.

In it, he invites the prime minister’s attention towards the “heartbreaking reality behind the existing inexplicable drug prices hike”, saying that people had been left to the mercy of profit, and the “expanding greed of industry” was killing patients.

In one example, he said a 25 milligram injection is priced at Rs100, while a 400mg injection costs Rs400 even though the cost of 100mg of material is not more than Rs10. He said that according to international practices, prices are different with different strengths of the same drug.

He added that a company sells a drug for Rs500, when the same drug in the government supply costs Rs100.

Dr Ali suggested that the government should buy medicines for the public to save them from spending billions of rupees.

He said a number of companies import finished drugs and sell them at five times the price, which was unfair to the public.

In addition, he said, the same drug is sold at different prices by different companies. He said that if there is a safety issue with cheaper products they should be banned.

He added that Drap has permitted the sale of herbal drugs, because of which vitamins are being sold at prices 10 times higher. He said a medicine that should be available for Rs100 is being sold for Rs1,000 because it is marketed as herbal medicine.

In the letter, he suggested making drugs registration holders declare or publish the actual cost of a drug and the approved price for patients in the public domain.

Published in Dawn, August 5th, 2019