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Deregulation of drug prices opposed

July 03, 2002

ISLAMABAD, July 2: Five organizations have appealed President Gen Pervez Musharraf not to allow further deregulation of pharmaceutical sector, as return on investment in this sector is already high and the move will push the medicines out of the common man’s reach.

The appeal was made by North Pakistan Pharmaceutical Manufacturer’s Association (PPMA) chairman Najmul Hassan Java, Pakistan Chemist and Druggist Association (PCDA) vice-chairman Nadeem Shami, Sajjad Munir and Mohammad Usman, president and secretary-general of the Foundation for the Preferment of Pharmaceutical Sciences (FPPS), Azhar Chaudhry of The Network for the Consumer Protection and Ayesha Faiq of Hamdard University at a media conference held at a local hotel on Tuesday.

They said the deregulation of medicines would prove disastrous for the poor as 40 per cent people in the country were living below poverty line and their condition was very miserable.

The policy of deregulation will adversely affect the patients of chronic diseases like heart, kidney, hepatitis etc, specially when the prices of top selling drugs and life saving/essential medicines are already high due to the partial deregulation in 1993.

The representatives said the move would only benefit multinational companies, the profit of which would ultimately be transferred out of the country.

The policy of deregulation does not apply to medicine sector as the patients have to buy what has been prescribed by the doctors.

They also quoted the World Bank report of Juan Rovira, senior drug economist (pharmaceuticals), on the proposed drug policy prepared by the commerce and industries ministry. It said it was difficult to strike balance between health and industrial goals and the government would be left with no means to ensure accessibility of drugs to the poor because of high prices.

The world bank report also stated that supporting brand names had always increased the price of medicine, instead of reducing it. The prices could be reduced by generic policy, as many drugs marketed in industrialized countries were not necessary in developing countries, and were likely to confuse doctors, besides leading to price-hike.

The World Bank repeatedly said with the deregulation of drug prices, the prices of medicines would be increased due to adoption of brand policy, the representatives said.

They alleged that the lobbyists continued to make efforts for implementation of deregulation policy and were busy spreading wrong information about increase in drug prices, since partial decontrol in 1993.

They said they had compared the prices of drugs used in diseases like cancer, hypertension, immunosuppressive conditions, emergencies and epilepsy, with those used in India and found the prices in Pakistan higher by 780 per cent.

They alleged that the lobbyist were also concealing the fact that the prices offered multinational companies were very high, compared to those of local companies. For example, Zofaran (ordustran, antiemetic drug, used by cancer patients) was available at Rs1200/amp 8mg/2ml, while a local company was selling it at Rs90.