Short-sighted move

Published September 15, 2022

THE prime minister and cabinet’s populist decision to reject a fresh proposal from the health ministry to raise prices of 10 medicines under ‘hardship cases’ will not benefit any stakeholder: the government, producers or patients. Last month, the Shehbaz Sharif government refused to increase the price of 35 medicines under the hardship category; these represent cases where the production of a drug becomes economically unviable at its existing fixed retail price, which then leads to its shortage and disappearance from the market.

Over the last year, many medicines have fallen into this category due to runaway inflation, steep exchange rate depreciation, a sharp hike in the electricity tariff and transportation costs, etc. On top of that, global inflation has led to a significant spike in the cost of imported raw materials, forcing manufacturers to reduce or discontinue some essential products because of their unrealistically low retail prices, causing their shortage in the market. The void created by the unavailability of these essential medicines is encouraging an influx of spurious, and in some cases smuggled, products into the market at great expense to public health safety. With drugmakers having exhausted their raw material inventories, it is being feared that more drugs will vanish from the market unless the government allows a price increase to compensate the manufacturers for the hike in their production costs. As painful as the uptick in price will be for many, medicine shortages can be even more distressing as can be seen with Panadol, a commonplace drug used to treat aches and fever which is presently hard to find. People then end up paying much more than the medicine’s fixed price in order to get their hands on it. If the government wants to help the vulnerable segments of society, it should learn to regulate drug prices by encouraging market competition rather than through price administration. For a longer-term resolution, the health authorities could impose a levy on manufacturers’ turnover to fund provision of free medicines to the poor.

Published in Dawn, September 15th, 2022

Opinion

Editorial

Elections in India
Updated 21 Apr, 2024

Elections in India

Independent accounts and spot reports are at variance with Modi-friendly TV anchors and they do not see an easy victory for the Indian premier.
IHC letter
21 Apr, 2024

IHC letter

THIS is a historic opportunity for the judiciary to define its institutional boundaries. It must not be squandered....
Olympic preparations
21 Apr, 2024

Olympic preparations

THIS past week marked the beginning of the 100-day countdown to the Paris Olympics, with the symbolic torch-lighting...
Isfahan strikes
Updated 20 Apr, 2024

Isfahan strikes

True de-escalation means Israel must start behaving like a normal state, not a rogue nation that threatens the entire region.
President’s speech
20 Apr, 2024

President’s speech

PRESIDENT Asif Ali Zardari seems to have managed to hit all the right notes in his address to the joint sitting of...
Karachi terror
20 Apr, 2024

Karachi terror

IS urban terrorism returning to Karachi? Yesterday’s deplorable suicide bombing attack on a van carrying five...