Medicines: Sans approval, pharma companies hike prices

Some drugs have seen prices double in the last year, survey reveals.


Sehrish Wasif December 03, 2013
Figures containing company prices on packages have been erased with a marker, replacing it with hand-written. PHOTO: EXPRESS

ISLAMABAD:


Although a Drug Regulatory Authority of Pakistan (DRAP) notification approving a 15 per cent increase in the price of drugs was withdrawn following the prime minister’s intervention, the prices of some medicines including life-saving ones have been jacked up by pharmaceutical companies over the last year without getting prior approval from health authorities.


Many public hospitals in the twin cities have also stopped providing free-of-cost medicines to patients after a 30 per cent cut in their annual budget by the government.

The prices of some essential medicines which have been increased without prior approval include Ternalin tablets whose price was increased from Rs128 to Rs191, Fucidin cream from Rs165 to Rs240, Venofer injection from Rs345 to Rs520, Vistaril from Rs220 to Rs268, Diamicron from Rs190 to Rs220, Lezra from Rs4800 to Rs5300, Acti-white from Rs850 to Rs995, Concor 5 mg tablets from Rs131 to Rs138, Gabica from Rs237 to Rs259, Panadol syrup from Rs40 to rs51, and Mixtard from Rs472 to Rs498.



The owner of a drug store in Aabpara said that there has been 10 to 100 per cent increase in the prices of some medicines over the last year.

“Every time we get new stocks, we see a new price tag on the packages,” said Mohammad Qasim, a salesman at a drug store in Aabpara.

“My father is a heart patient admitted at Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences (Pims). Every day, doctors give a long list of medicines to purchase them from private medical stores. It is really making a hole in my pocket,” said Irshad Ahmed, who was getting the life-saving medicine to his ailing father from a chemist in Sector F-10.

“A few years back, the hospital used to give such medicines for free, but they stopped a while back.”

Minister of State for National Health Services, Regulation and Coordination (NHSRC) Saira Afzal Tarar was unaware of the pricing issue when asked. “Strict action will be taken against pharmaceutical companies that increase prices without government approval,” she said.

Zahid Saeed, a senior representative of the Pakistan Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Association (PPMA), said that one should not be quick to blame pharmaceutical companies alone for the price hike, as, according to him, there were many middlemen and retailers who put new price tags on medicines before selling them.

“There is a need to raise awareness among the masses that when they purchase a medicine, they should counter check the price list available with chemist and medical store owners before paying the bill,” he said.

Published in The Express Tribune, December 3rd, 2013.

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