ISLAMABAD: A crackdown by the Drug Regulatory Authority of Pakistan (Drap) in Karachi has revealed that pharmacies and medical stores are selling medicines at five-fold higher prices than the maximum retail price (MRP) approved by the authority.

Following instructions of caretaker Health Minister Dr Nadeem Jan, the authority has launched a crackdown against drug profiteers across the country and raids are being conducted on warehouses of wholesalers, distributers, pharmacies and medical stores.

According to Drap rules, pharmaceutical companies can sell medicines at any price lower than the MRP, but they cannot exceed the MRP. For increasing prices, pharmaceutical companies have to file cases with Drap pleading that medicines’ production costs have gone up and it is not viable for them to sell medicines within the existing MRP.

According to the data officially shared by Drap, teams raided different medical stores of DHA, Gulshan-i-Iqbal, Gulistan-i-Johar and other areas in Karachi.

“The Heparin Injection’s [used for decreasing clotting of blood] MRP is Rs800 but it was being sold for Rs3,500.

Similarly, a pain killer Tramal Injection, antibiotic Augmentin DS Suspension and Hydryllin cough syrup “were being sold at higher rates than the MRP,” a health ministry official said.

He added that Ventolin Inhaler and Tegral tablets (recommended for epilepsy and patients with bipolar disorder or mood disorder])were also being sold at higher prices.

He said medicines were confiscated and medical stores sealed during the crackdown.

The official said that during a similar crackdown in Lahore, it was revealed that medical stores were over charging for medicines of tuberculosis, epilepsy, cancer and other life-saving drugs.

“A pack of Tegral tablets [recommended for epilepsy] should be sold for MRP 260, but it was being sold for Rs1,300 and at some places for Rs1,400. Rivotril [used for treating fits in infants, children and adults] has MRP Rs800, but was being sold for Rs1,000.

A pack of Zenax [used for treating anxiety and panic disorders] has a MRP of Rs278, but was being sold for Rs1,400. Ultravist Injection [used for clearly showing the organs such as kidney, bladder, heart, vessels or spinal cord on X-rays] has MRP of Rs3,418, but was being sold for Rs6,500,“ he said.

The official said a consignment of banned syringes was also confiscated during the crackdown in Balochistan.

Health Minister Dr Jan said legal action has been initiated against owners of medical stores selling medicines at higher than the government-approved rates.

“Just after taking the charge of the ministry, I had directed Drap to take action against those involved in selling drugs in black markets. Drap will ensure that the quality of drugs would not suffer and they would be sold within the MRP set by the government,” he said.

Published in Dawn, November 20th, 2023

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