Patients suffering from hepatitis B and C demanded on Friday that the government fix the price of Pegasys injection at Rs5,000, to preclude doctors and pharmacies from exploiting them.
A protest against the artificial price of life saving drugs including Pegasys was held outside the National Press Club on Friday.
The protest was attended by a large number of patients and human rights activists.
They said the actual price of the injection, manufactured by a multinational company, is not more than Rs3,000. However it is being sold in the market at inflated prices of Rs13,000.
They claimed the doctors prescribing the injection were receiving half of the price as kickbacks, while the rest of the money is distributed among importers, health officials, distributors and retailers.
“This is an organised crime against helpless patients who cannot afford four doses per month,” they asserted.
Over 10% of the county’s population is suffering from the deadly disease, which is mostly caused by reusing disposable syringes, transfusion of unscreened blood and use of unsterilised equipment in hospitals and clinics.
Pharmaceutical companies take full advantage of the situation by selling their drugs at exorbitant rates and barring the entry of affordable medicines in the market at the same time, the protesters said.
In addition, these companies have been found to be ignorant towards conducting research to produce cheaper medicines, claimed a protester.
Addressing the procession, Sawera Foundation Patron-in-chief Mian Ahmed said the government has been unable to control the pharmaceutical industries, which have been resisting development of indigenous drugs manufacturing.
He suggested allowing medicines to be imported from India and China would increase competition and hence fair valuation of medicines. “The same injection will cost Rs1,500 if we import it from India,” said Ahmed.
Nineteen-year-old Parveen, a resident of katchi abadi in F-11, said she was diagnosed with hepatitis C during pregnancy last year but could not afford the expensive treatment.
Parveen got the disease when she had her tooth removed from a roadside dentist in Golra Sharif.
“I will continue living with the disease for the rest of my life as I make only Rs3,000 per month,” she added.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 21st, 2012.