Pharmaceutical firms obtained stay order against price reduction, Senate body told

Published December 4, 2019
Prime Minister Imran Khan’s directions regarding reduction of drug prices could not be implemented as 15 pharmaceutical companies, including multinationals, obtained a stay order from Sindh High Court (SHC). — AFP/File
Prime Minister Imran Khan’s directions regarding reduction of drug prices could not be implemented as 15 pharmaceutical companies, including multinationals, obtained a stay order from Sindh High Court (SHC). — AFP/File

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan’s directions regarding reduction of drug prices could not be implemented as 15 pharmaceutical companies, including multinationals, obtained a stay order from Sindh High Court (SHC).

This information was shared with members of the subcommittee of National Assembly Standing Committee on National Health Services (NHS) during a meeting held at Parliament House on Tuesday.

The agenda of the meeting was to evaluate the performance of Drug Regulatory Authority of Pakistan (Drap) with a focus on quality assurance of raw material and end-products, registration and pricing.

At the start of the meeting, convener Dr Nisar Ahmed Cheema of the PML-N asked why prices of medicines could not be reduced despite a notice taken by the prime minister and his direction to reduce them.A representative of Drap informed the meeting that 15 pharmaceutical companies, including multinationals, had obtained a stay order against the direction to decrease the prices.

On April 23, prime minister took notice of up to 400pc increase in drug prices and directed to reduce them within 72 hours

“Due to the stay order, prices of some medicines could not be reduced. However, some companies have reduced the prices,” he claimed.

In mid-April, prices of medicines were increased by up to 400 per cent but on April 23 the prime minister directed to reduce the prices within 72 hours. On May 16, Special Assistant to Prime Minister on Health Dr Zafar Mirza claimed that after negotiations with companies it had been agreed that the maximum increase in medicine prices would be 75pc.

He had also said prices of 889 medicines were considered, out of which prices of 464 drugs were increased and that of 395 decreased and others were not changed. The 464 medicines whose prices were increased were frequently used. Moreover, prices of all medicines were increased by 15pc due to devaluation of the rupee, he said.

However, on Tuesday it was revealed that 15 pharmaceutical companies had obtained a stay order against decreasing in prices.

Though the subcommittee had directed Drap to call representatives of the pharmaceutical companies, no company representative bothered to attend the meeting.

The committee members decided that they would issue the firms written directions to ensure their attendance in the next meeting.

Meanwhile, committee member Ramesh Lal of the PPP alleged that pharmaceutical companies were involved in money laundering through over-invoicing of raw material.

“Companies have done money laundering worth Rs500 million this year,” he claimed.

The committee decided to issue notices to the companies so that their representation would be ensured in the next meeting.

A representative of Drap admitted that prices of drugs were less in India compared to Pakistan. Even vaccines are expensive in Pakistan because they are imported from India. It was also informed that sometimes export of vaccines was stopped from the Indian side.

Published in Dawn, December 4th, 2019

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