Interferon at discounted rate: Relief not reaching patients
ISLAMABAD, May 26: The relief of a multinational pharmaceutical company, offering two free interferon injections to Hepatitis-C patients on the purchase of as many, seems not reaching the end users, it has been learnt.
The company offered the injections free of cost through a notification issued in 2011.
The notification, a copy of which is available with this reporter, reads: “We are proud to announce that from July 2011 with
every two injections two will be given free of cost.”
It added that the company had offered the incentive under its ‘patient access programme’.
According to an official of a public hospital, the multinational company does offer two free injections with every two sales.
“The distributor or the doctor may be benefiting from the offer but the poor patient never gets the relief,” said the purchase official of the public hospital on condition of anonymity.
The official suggested that the multinational company should review its policy of giving free injections and instead reduce its price if it really wanted to extend a relief to the poor and needy patients across the country.
One drug store official said that a single injection cost around Rs12,000 to Rs13,000, adding “we offer some discount in price, but giving injections free of cost is out of question.”
Raja Naseer, a Hepatitis-C patient, said whenever he purchased Interferon, he had to pay for each injection.
Pims gastroenterology department’s Associate Professor Waseem Khawaja said usually a Hepatitis-C patient received 12 to 24 injections in a span of six months or a year’s time.
He said the distributors did offer discount if you buy whole dosage but it was not free at all. “Who told you it’s free,” he asked.
Mr Khawaja said the poor patients had the option of Pakistan Baitul Maal (PBM) which issued a cheque of around Rs132,000 for the complete course of 24 injections.
When approached, Amanullah Khan, the cost accountant of the Ministry of Services and Regulations Division who manages the price mechanism of the drug companies, said: “We have already issued a show-cause notice to the company since the offer is not benefiting the end-users and the matter will definitely be addressed by the pricing committee once Drug Regulatory Agency of Pakistan (DRAP) is fully operational.”
Mr Khan admitted that the issue had been pending for the last one year because the health ministry had been devolved and there were currently no stringent drug regulations to control the unregulated drug market, especially the pricing of medicines.
However, one of the multinational company’s senior representatives, who recently visited the capital city to attend a pharma bureau meeting, confirmed to Dawn that they had offered the relief to help the poor and the needy since a large number of people in the country were suffering from the hepatitis disease.
“It’s still beneficial to the end users,” he said, denying that anybody is cashing in on the deal or that the offer has been made to generate more profits or increase sale of the injection.
He said they had not been issued any show-cause notice and “your information is wrong.”