Islamabad (Monday, April 15, 2019): Senator Mian Muhammad Ateeq Shaikh, Chairperson, Senate Committee on National Health Services Regulations and Coordination said Prime Minister Imran Khan should uphold its commitment to the public of Pakistan and should take concrete measures to reverse the price hike of drugs immediately. He said if Prime Minster does not take any action till Friday, he will go to the Supreme Court as public petitioner.
He stated this during a public seminar titled “Drug Prices in Pakistan: Myth and Reality”, organized by Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI), here on Monday.
Senator Mian Muhammad Ateeq said though we are allies of the government, but that does not mean to turn a blind eye on this criminal price hike of essential medicine. He said the industry should get profit but there should be some limit to the profit, as it’s a regulatory industry. He said owners of pharma factories are earning billions of rupee profit on a single medicine every year. He said around 200 to 300 per cent rise of medicine were observed, which is cruelty and injustice with the public. Despite the notice of the government, not a single FIR was filed against the perpetrators, he lamented. He said that the Drug Regulatory Authority of Pakistan (DRAP) was not at World Health Organization (WHO) level three, where the other countries of the region were at 7th level, which also needs to be looked at.
Dr. Nausheen Hamid, Parliamentary Secretary, National Health Services, Regulations & Coordination said Drug Regulatory Authority of Pakistan (DRAP) laws are being revised and the government is working on addressing the shortcomings in the drug regulatory mechanism. For that every stakeholder will be consulted and consensus will be evolved soon. She said DRAP has registered record of around 65 thousand medicines, whereas, 45000 are being manufactured in Pakistan. She informed that her ministry has hired an IT team to develop a centralized computer system where data of 45 thousands medicines will be updated and complete information about every single medicine will be available to the general public. She said her ministry reviewed 889 cases and 463 hardship cases were allowed to raise their prices up to 15 per cent. She said there is a lot of export potential in the pharma industry and government has plans to explore this potential. She said with more than 700 companies in Pakistan, pharma industry’s export is only 200 million dollars, which can be enhanced.
Chaudhary Ansar Farooq Chairman Pakistan Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Association (PPMA) North said today Pakistan’s pharma industry is providing the medicine at low cost and at affordable prices as compared to other regional countries such as India and Bangladesh. He said 90 per cent raw material being imported from the abroad and the growing value of the dollar is impacting the manufacturing cost. He said pharma industry is highly regulated and highly tax paid industry, which is proving more than 40 lacs jobs. He said the Prime Minister constituted a committee headed by Dr Ishrat Hussain to investigate the matter and PPMA welcome’s this PM initiative and will fully support. He said PPMA is complying the PM 72 hours deadline to reverse the price hike of drugs.
Romina Khurshid Alam, PMLN MNA said that DRAP should provide the correct facts and information to the standing Committees of National Assembly and Senate and should be held accountable for misinformation. She said above party politics, both National Assembly and Senate standing committees should call joint meetings to find solutions to this important national issue.
Dr. Nisar Ahmed Cheema, Member National Assembly, Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PML-N) said that the way drug prices were raised exposed the incompetence of the incumbent government. He said it was our collective failure that despite regulation we failed to control this industry. There is no mechanism developed to check and ensure the quality of raw material on entry point which mostly imported from the abroad.
Dr Azizur Rehman, Author of Pharmacy of the Developing World said generally the patients has no awareness and no knowledge about the alternative cost effective drugs and solely rely on doctor’s prescription. He said the government should develop a mechanism to ensure public access to quality and affordable essential medicine. In Pakistan, over the years, there is constant growth and expansion of the pharmaceutical industry with record profit every year, he remarked. Competition Commission of Pakistan (CCP) should check the expansion of the Pharma industry and take notice of sudden price hike of drugs by the industry, he added.
Moazzam Sharif Bhatti, Director Policy Advocacy and Outreach SDPI said regulating drug prices and pharmacy industry of developing world is a big challenge. He said that the government needs to ensure access to safe, quality and efficacious medicines at affordable prices as well as earliest availability of new treatment opportunities for the people of Pakistan.