Federal health minister seeks special audit of DRAP over drugs price hike

Published: April 14, 2019
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Representational image.  PHOTO: AFP

Representational image. PHOTO: AFP

ISLAMABAD: As the federal health department continues its nationwide crackdown on the unauthorized hikes in prices of medicines, the federal health minister has called for a special audit of apex drug regulator’s accounts, especially with regards to increases in drug prices.

The Federal Health Ministry has written to the Auditor General of Pakistan requesting an audit of the Drug Regulatory Authority of Pakistan’s (DRAP) accounts to ensure that the public is being provided quality medicines at the lowest possible price.

“In view of its role, that has a direct impact on the health and wellbeing of the people, the authority (DRAP) remains a subject of public scrutiny,” read the letter.

It added that since its inception in November 2012, DRAP has been the subject of continued media attention over alleged irregularities and malpractices.

“It goes without saying that transparency and efficiency in the functioning of the organization is of critical importance to meet the targets and ensure sustained availability of quality medicines to the masses,” it added.

“In view of the foregoing, to further instil public confidence in the authority, it is requested to conduct a Special Audit of DRAP for the period 2012-2013 to date of the Pricing Mechanism to ascertain whether prices of drugs are determined justly, in accordance with the laid down policy and as per law.”

Last week, Kiani had stated that the government was committed to clamping down on the alleged illegal price hike of medicines. in subsequent crackdowns, his ministry confiscated stocks of over 100 different medicines which were allegedly being sold at higher than the approved rates.

The health minister had also warned pharmaceutical companies of strict action for violating the rules.

Providing context of the recent surge in drug prices, he said that the government had recently allowed a price hike of 15-19 per cent owing to rising costs of inputs on the back of a spiralling exchange rate but some suppliers and companies had allegedly increased prices beyond this approved rate.

He further stated that the current drug policy being followed by DRAP had been approved by the previous government on the directions of the Supreme Court.

Kiani said medicine industry was worth $1.3 trillion and provides employment to millions of people in the country.

DRAP raids

Meanwhile, DRAP officials on Saturday continued their raid on various medicine supplying companies in different cities of the country and seized stocks of 83 medicines for being sold at exorbitant rates. Cases were registered against 28 pharmaceutical companies as well.

The DRAP team conducted a raid in Karachi, Lahore and Peshawar and confiscated a huge stock of medicines.

In Peshawar, the team raided and seized drugs in a warehouse. Similarly, in the Garden area of Karachi, DRAP officials seized stock whose prices the shop owners had increased voluntarily.

Kiani said the crackdown on such medicine suppliers would continue across the country. He also directed the drug regulatory authority to expedite their action and collar every supplier involved in selling drugs at exorbitant rates.

He said the government will not tolerate any injustice with the public.

Published in The Express Tribune, April 14th, 2019.

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