Despite price hike, shortage of essential drugs persists

It will take another 45 days for medicines to be made available, says PPMA president

Rija Fatima January 17, 2019

KARACHI: A week after the Drug Regulatory Authority Pakistan (DRAP) notified an increase of up to 15% in the price of medicines across the country, roughly 300 medicines are still unavailable at pharmacies and hospitals in Karachi. According to Pakistan Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Association (PPMA) President Zahid Saeed, it will take another 45 days for the medicines to be made available.

Price hike

Accepting the demands of pharmaceutical manufacturers, DRAP notified a 9% increase in the retail prices of life-saving drugs and a 15% in the retail prices of other medicines effective from January 10. The reasons cited for the price hike include the devaluation of the rupee against the dollar in the last year which caused raw material and packaging costs to rise. The increase of gas and electricity tariffs further burdened the pharmaceutical industry, it was claimed. These added costs had made it difficult for the manufacturers to continue the production of these drugs at the previous prices. PPMA President Zahid Saeed told The Express Tribune that these 300 medicines were not available in the market for the past six months.

Delay persists

Despite the notification of increase in prices, manufacturers have not released medicines in the market. Saeed explained that manufacturers had stopped the import of raw materials due to the depreciation of local currency. Now that the manufacturing process has resumed, he added, it will take another 45 days for the distribution to pick up again. The delay includes the time for imports to arrive and for the production and packaging to be completed.

DRAP approves 15% increase in medicine prices

Citizens dismayed

The shortage of medicines which has persisted over recent months has mostly inconvenienced citizens. Public hospitals had suffered most from the shortage. The increase in price only adds to their woes. Patients from the less fortunate segments of society claim that it is because of the Sindh government's negligence that they are forced to buy medicines from the market instead of them being provided free of cost or at least at subsidised rates from government hospitals.

Similarly, Wholesale Chemist Council of Pakistan President Atif Hanif has said that the government should devise a policy to facilitate the increase in prices while also considering the affordability of the people. According to him, this is needed so that no person, regardless of their socio-economic standing, is deprived of medication.

Essential drugs

The unavailable medicines include life-saving drugs for cardiovascular diseases, medication for respiratory disorders, MMR vaccines - a preventive vaccine against measles, mumps and rubella for children, blood pressure medication, drugs like Tegral for epilepsy, Rivotril and Xanax for psychiatric disorders, Panadol and other medicines. 

Published in The Express Tribune, January 17th, 2019.


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