Firms raise drug prices by 600pc
ISLAMABAD, June 2: A number of pharmaceutical companies in the country increased the drug prices by as much as 600 per cent over the last few months.
A senior federal government official held the Drug Regulatory Agency of Pakistan (DRAP) responsible for the astronomical increase in drug prices, saying it failed to host the drug pricing board meeting on May 28 and postponed it for an indefinite period.
An industry representative said after the devolution of health ministry under the 18th amendment, a number of companies increased the drug prices on their own taking advantage of the absence of drug regulations.
President Asif Ali Zardari promulgated the DRAP Ordinance 2012 on February 17 for regulations of pharmaceutical companies after the Supreme Court took suo motu notice of the deaths of over 100 people due to adverse drug reaction in Lahore early this year.
“The pharmaceutical companies later obtained a stay order from Lahore High Court and maintained the increased prices,”
added the representative not willing to share his name.
However, the court disposed of the case on April 26 and asked the companies to approach the pricing board of DRAP to get the issue resolved.
According to Lahore High Court documents, a citizen, Mian Aftaf Ahmed, moved the court to vacate the stay saying the increase in the prices had put an additional burden on the poor.
The firms, which had obtained the stay order, included Mac & Rain (Lahore), Shahzeb (Hattar), Zam Zam Corporation (Karachi), Woodward (Karachi), Epla Laboratories (Karachi), Sia International (Lahore), Ostuka International (Lahore), Searle Pakistan (Karachi), Medicak (Lahore), CCL (Lahore) and Frontier Dextrose (Hattar).
“The price of Hydralin, a cough syrup, has been increased from Rs30 to Rs59 whereas the price of an ORS sachet was jacked up from Rs10 to Rs27,” Mr Ahmed told Dawn.
He said according to his calculations, the total sale of ORS was Rs667 million and with the 170 per cent increase in its price the poor nation would be adding Rs1267 million to these conglomerates annually.
It may be noted that a Karachi-based multinational pharmaceutical company had offered two interferon injections free on the purchase of as many by Hepatitis-C patients but the relief seems not reaching the end users. The matter relating to the interferon injection is still pending with the pricing board of DRAP.
“It’s a contempt of court that the pricing board meeting is being delayed intentionally by the government (regulations and services division) and the poor people are suffering,” observed Mr Ahmed.
In his plea to the court, Mr Ahmed maintained that the companies had increased prices by up to 600 per cent.
When approached, Faridullah Khan, the chairman of DRAP, who is also the secretary regulations and services division, claimed: “The meeting was scheduled for May 28 but due to some issues it has been moved to the first week of this month.”
According to the rules, the secretary regulations and services division will be the head of the 15-member board of the drug agency.
“We are aware of the pricing issue but let me assure you that a rationale pricing mechanism will be introduced in the pricing board meeting and even the pending matters will be addressed,” added the principal accounting officer of the services and regulations division.
“We will also consider the interest of the pharmaceutical companies since there has been an increased inflation but the decision will be made on merit,” said Mr Khan.