Seeking answers: Senate panel to take up drug price hike

MQM senator wants to know why increase was allowed by drug authority.

Maryam Usman April 18, 2016
MQM senator wants to know why increase was allowed by drug authority. PHOTO: EXPRESS

ISLAMABAD: A parliamentary panel will take up on Monday (today) the issue of national and international pharmaceutical companies increasing prices of their medicines in Pakistan.

The issue was first raised by MQM Senator Ateeq Shaikh in the upper house of parliament last month through a motion. The matter was subsequently referred to the house committee on national health services regulations and coordination.

The panel, which also includes Senator Shaikh, has met at least four times since to discuss the matter but has yet to offer a satisfactory answer on why medicine prices have been increased.

Shaikh told The Express Tribune on Sunday that the health ministry has failed to provide a basis for allowing pharmaceutical companies to raise prices.

“So far, they [health ministry] have only shared the names of the companies, the medicines and their prices,” Shaikh said. “But I am more interested in knowing the reasons for allowing them to increase the prices.”

He added that the pricing committee of the Drug Regulatory Authority of Pakistan (DRAP) had allowed an increase in prices for some medicines under the umbrella of ‘hardship cases’.

In March, the DRAP had revised prices of some 237 medicines manufactured by local and multinational companies. The review kept prices of some medicines unchanged, reduced prices of others and approved some increase for the rest.

On the other hand, Shaikh claimed that some international pharmaceutical companies have allegedly increased the prices of their products arbitrarily and have obtained a stay from the Sindh High Court for doing so.

He went on to claim that the DRAP instead of fulfilling its responsibility of regulating drug prices of international pharmaceutical companies, has a ‘conflict of interest’ to protect and oblige these companies.

Senator Shaikh said Health Minister Saira Afzal Tarrar did not seem interested in pursuing the matter proactively. “If the sitting government accepts my proposal to re-evaluate the price of medicines on a cost basis, prices of 70 to 80 per cent of medicines can be halved,” he claimed.

Published in The Express Tribune, April 18th,  2016.


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