Several private pharmacies operating at public hospitals in the city are selling medicines at less than the mandatory 10 per cent discount. They claim that their prices are lower but add that it is not feasible to give a 10 per cent discount on all medicines.
Punjab Drug Rules of 2007 and Drug Act of 1976, require these pharmacies to give discount retail price of medicines.
Hospitals can set the amount of discount they want from the pharmacies on their premises.
The amount is agreed upon between the hospital and the pharmacies in the award contract. However, it cannot be less than 10 per cent.
A pharmacist at Lady Willingdon Hospital told The Express Tribune that he was selling all medicines below market rates.
“We have to pay lease amount to secure the tenders. Still, we give discounts on medicines,” he said.
A pharmacist at Services Hospital, who preferred not to be named, said it was not always possible to give a certain amount of discount on all medicines.
“We sell some medicines at a 20 per cent discount. It is not possible for all medicines though,” he said.
Talking to The Express Tribune, the medical superintendents said they were responsible for renting out space to pharmacists who met the requirements set out in the rules.
Monitoring prices was the job of drug inspectors, they said. “We are concerned only with evaluating tenders, selecting a party that seems credible and then ensuring that it pays the monthly rents,” an official at Services Hospital told The Tribune.
He said drug inspectors were responsible for checking the quality of medicines and ensuring there was no overpricing.
There are at least 15 drug inspectors in the city are to monitor prices and quality of medicines at 5,500 licenced pharmacies.
Quality Control Board Secretary Dastagir Ahmad Bhatti, who heads the city’s drug inspectors, said some pharmacies in public hospitals might be selling medicines at higher prices.
He said the medical superintendents should cancel licences of such pharmacies. “Drug inspectors visit pharmacies and monitor prices as well as quality regularly. For those in public hospitals, we do take action if they are found selling substandard medicines,” he said.
Pakistan Medical Society chairman Dr Masood Sheikh said public hospitals should operate pharmacies themselves.
“If private pharmacies cannot be trusted to sell medicines at discounted rates than they should be closed,” he said.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 17th, 2011.