The federal government has decided to allow pharmaceutical companies to increase prices of 94 lifesaving medicines in order to end the chronic shortage of these drugs in the market.
“To address long-term shortage of some key or lifesaving medicines, the federal cabinet has allowed rationalizing prices of drugs that had been reported to be in short supply due to unrealistically low prices,” said Special Assistant to Prime Minister on National Health Services Dr Faisal Sultan.
Dr Faisal Sultan was addressing a press conference on Tuesday along with Federal Minister for Information Shibli Faraz after a cabinet meeting.
The SAPM said prices were increased for the drugs in the “hardship category” on the recommendation of the Drug Pricing Committee under the Drugs Pricing Policy of 2018.
Explaining the decision, Dr Sultan said the decision was taken in order to end the unavailability of drugs in the market due to unrealistic prices, consequent selling of such drugs in the black-market and to ensure that they are locally available instead of being sold through unregulated channels at high prices.
He said the drugs whose prices have been allowed to increase include medicines such as furosemide injections for emergency use in high blood pressure; acetazolamide tablets for glaucoma; hydralazine tablets for lowering blood pressure and carbamazepine tablets and suspension for epilepsy.
Atropine sulphate injection used in emergencies; magnesium sulphate used to treat seizures due to preeclampsia during pregnancy; hydroxyurea, daunorubicin, bleomycin –all used in the treatment of cancer; nitroglycerin and glyceryl trinitrate used as emergency heart medicines and anti-rabies vaccine are also among the medicines.
He gave an example of acetazolamide tablets, the price of whose 30 tablets pack was fixed at Rs60.45, despite increases in the cost of raw material in the international market, the devaluation of the rupee, and increase in the price of packaging material and reduced volume of usage compared to the past.
“The price of Remdesivir, an experimental drug used for the treatment of Covid-19, has, however, been reduced to Rs8,244 from Rs10,873,” he added.
A statement issued by the Federal Ministry of Health after the cabinet meeting said the cabinet gave approval for fixing the maximum retail prices (MRPs) of the medicines and these MRPs will remain static till June 30, 2021.
“The decision to allow necessary increases in the prices of such drugs will enable viable manufacture and ready availability of these essential medications to the public, instead of forcing people to purchase medicines of dubious quality at exorbitant black-market prices.
“Taking these factors into consideration, the Drug Pricing Committee in its 37th, 38th and 39th meetings recommended increases in the prices of these non-available/scarce drugs to the federal government,” read the ministry’s statement.
Senator Faraz said the cabinet was given briefing on the Anti-Rape Investigation and Prosecution Bill, which aims at curtailing incidents of sexual assault, ensuring swift prosecution, protection of victim, use of modern technology for investigation and making the punishment severe in all such cases.
“The cabinet has also approved re-classification of seven cantonments under the Cantonment Act, 1924. In addition, the cabinet approved appointing new members for the cantonment boards. The new board will be for one year and the period can further be extended,” he said.
Faraz said the cabinet has completed half a century of cabinet meetings in the last two years, adding that the number of cabinet meetings during the PPP tenure was 26 while the PML-N held only eight cabinet meetings in its five-year term.
The minister said the cabinet committee has met for 708 times during PTI’s rule while the number of cabinet committee meetings during PPP and PML-N tenure was 266 and 160, respectively.