Cut in drug prices: a welcome move

The reduction in medicine prices will facilitate thousands of people

Editorial March 30, 2018

Looming fears about inflation and costs of basic commodities rising are slightly allayed with the news that the federal cabinet has reduced the prices of 139 common medicines. This is, indeed, a feather in the cap for Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi. Similarly, the Drug Regulatory Authority of Pakistan (Drap) took a prudent step by forwarding a proposal to reduce the prices of larger packaging sizes. With metabolic syndrome, diabetes and cardiovascular disease on the rise due to the advent of large-sized fast food meals, the availability of processed foods, the prevalence of meat and dairy in our diets, and the introduction of newer forms of sugary desserts be they strawberry samosas or large sundaes containing a popular chocolate spread, the reduction in drug prices will benefit countless patients. Acknowledging that exercise and fitness are not commonly a daily part of one’s lifestyle here, which leads to muscle and joint aches, the reduction in prices of painkillers will likely see the industry flourish. Most importantly, the reduction in prices will come as a relief to the lower-income socioeconomic classes, namely those below the poverty level and living hand to mouth.

Healthcare is in a shambles. Members of the lower-income classes are often at the mercy of employers or other acquaintances, who can provide financial support. Even purchasing medicine becomes a burden and points to basic needs being unmet. One caution with lower drug prices, however, is that drug abuse is an unavoidable phenomenon, especially with pain killers. Drap will need to particularly monitor the sales of drugs that are highly scheduled elsewhere in the world, meaning they are not easily available over the counter.

As departments and private organisations work on fixing the country’s healthcare system, the reduction in medicine prices will facilitate thousands of people. With regard to costs for the industry however, profit margins will still presumably be adequate due to the heavy dependence on drugs.

Published in The Express Tribune, March 30th, 2018.

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