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

Editorial

Ominous demands
Updated 18 May, 2024

Ominous demands

The federal government needs to boost its revenues to reduce future borrowing and pay back its existing debt.
Property leaks
18 May, 2024

Property leaks

THE leaked Dubai property data reported on by media organisations around the world earlier this week seems to have...
Heat warnings
18 May, 2024

Heat warnings

STARTING next week, the country must brace for brutal heatwaves. The NDMA warns of severe conditions with...
Dangerous law
Updated 17 May, 2024

Dangerous law

It must remember that the same law can be weaponised against it one day, just as Peca was when the PTI took power.
Uncalled for pressure
17 May, 2024

Uncalled for pressure

THE recent press conferences by Senators Faisal Vawda and Talal Chaudhry, where they demanded evidence from judges...
KP tussle
17 May, 2024

KP tussle

THE growing war of words between KP Chief Minister Ali Amin Gandapur and Governor Faisal Karim Kundi is affecting...