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Ikram Junadi


Published Date: Apr 16, 2019

Senator terms increase in drug prices a ‘conspiracy’

Senate Standing Committee on National Health Services (NHS) Chairman Mian Ateeq Shaikh on Monday said the increase in prices of medicines was a conspiracy against the prime minister and suggested that the prices should be reduced.
He was speaking at a seminar, ‘Drug prices in Pakistan: myth and reality’ organised by Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI).
“As many as 22 million people are suffering from hepatitis in Pakistan and they need medicines. The issue of rising medicine prices has been discussed for months but could not be addressed,” he said.
Minister for National Health Services (NHS) Aamer Mehmood Kiani was invited to the event but could not show up.
Claims pharma firm owners openly say they run businesses, not charities
Media coordinator for the ministry Sajid Shah told Dawn that due to the very tight schedule the minister could not attend the event.
The Senate committee chairman said owners of pharmaceutical companies were openly saying that they run businesses and are not doing charity work.
“It is unfortunate that they believe it is just a business. On April 9, I had written to Prime Minister Imran Khan to play his role to bring down the drug prices. The very next day the prime minister directed to reduce the prices but they are yet to be reduced.”
He said though the government claims that the prices were increased due to devaluation of the rupee, prices of raw materials have reduced in the international market.
However, Parliamentary Secretary for NHS Dr Nausheen Hamid said the prime minister had already taken notice of the medicine prices.
“There were so many issues in the Drug Regulatory Authority of Pakistan (Drap) and even the record had disappeared. We have been establishing a website so that the record would not be lost in future. Moreover, it has been decided to hold a special audit of Drap.”
She said strict action was being taken against companies for not reducing prices.
“Pakistan is exporting medicines worth $200 million only while India’s drug export is worth $2 billion. The prime minister has also condemned the increase in prices and hopefully it would be reduced soon,” said Ms Hamid.
Member National Assembly Dr Nisar Ahmed Cheema said no one was ready to decrease the prices of medicines.
“However, the issue is very important and I urge the government to take every possible step to bring down the prices,” he said.
Pakistan Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Association (north) Chairman Chaudhry Ansar Farooq said Pakistan’s pharma industry was providing medicines at affordable prices compared to other countries such as India and Bangladesh.
He said 90 per cent raw materials were imported and the growing value of the dollar was impacting the manufacturing cost. He said the industry was highly regulated and paid taxes besides proving more than four million jobs.
PML-N MNA Romina Khurshid Alam said Drap should come up with facts and provide information to the standing committees of National Assembly and Senate.
It should be held accountable for misinformation. She said committees of the Senate and National Assembly should call joint meetings to find a solution to the issue.
Director Policy Advocacy and Outreach SDPI Moazzam Sharif Bhatti said regulating drug prices and the pharmacy industry in the developing world was a big challenge.
He said the government should ensure access to safe, quality and efficacious medicines at affordable prices as well as earliest availability of new treatment opportunities for the citizens.Source: