Across the border
Do Pakistanis pay more for basic medicines than their neighbours?
Director Budget and Accounts Drug Regulatory Authority of Pakistan (DRAP) Mr Amanullah partly agrees with the common public perception that prices of medicines are cheaper in neighbouring countries as compared to Pakistan. According to him certain drugs are cheaper in neighbouring countries but many drugs are cheaper in Pakistan.
A multinational to multinational comparison reveals that of the 178 essential drugs marketed by big companies 108 (61 per cent) drugs are cheaper in Pakistan whereas 70 (39 per cent) drugs are cheaper in India. Chairman Pakistan Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Association (PPMA) Jawed Akhai believes that out of 50 top molecules which constitute about 80 per cent of the pharma market of both the countries, 70 per cent are cheaper in Pakistan whereas 30 per cent in India.
However, prices of drugs marketed by local companies in India are generally lower than prices of drugs marketed by local companies in Pakistan due to cheap raw material being produced in India for majority of medicines whereas Pakistan, where share of locally produced raw materials is approximately five per cent, is dependent on India and China for most of its raw material and hence the logistic costs incurred by Pakistani industries are an additional factor.
India has a large scale manufacturing base and the industry enjoy much larger economies of scale besides developing its industrial base for manufacturing of pharmaceutical machinery which also decreases manufacturing cost of medicines.
When asked, medicine prepared in Pakistan is available at a lower price than an imported one for the same disease; unfortunately, the local brand is generally not as easily available. Amanullah said this is true for the price of deregulated medicines like multivitamins, minerals, food supplements, etc. It is partly based on our mindset that prefers imported items of all sorts and another factor behind this phenomenon is the temptation to make more profit by selling expensive brands. In case of essential medicines there is no price discrimination between local and imported medicines but a few local manufacturers sell their drugs at lower than the maximum retail prices fixed by DRAP as customers prefer multinational brands if there is no price difference with local brands.