By Our Staff Reporter
Lahore: Over half a dozen multinational pharmaceutical companies have increased the prices of medicines by up to 50 per cent over the last one month without seeking approval from the Drug Regulatory Authority of Pakistan (Drap), thereby compounding problems of poor patients who are already suffering in the wake of high cost of drugs.
It was the second raise in medicines’ prices in the last two years or so as the multinational firms had earlier increased the drug prices by 15pc in 2013, as well.
Market sources are of the view that the MNCs’ unilateral decision of increasing prices of medicines will encourage local pharmaceutical firms to follow the suit.
The pharmaceutical companies’ latest move of increasing prices has also created shortage of medicines as, according to market sources, some pharmaceutical firms are retrieving unsold stocks from wholesalers for updating the prices.
Moreover, staff of the pharmaceutical firms has also been instructed to charge customers in accordance with new rates, thus creating a shortage of a number of life-saving drugs, sources claimed, adding that the MNCs have increased prices of medicines at their own and there is no role of Drap’s drug pricing committee in it.
The prices of medicines which have been skyrocketed include those used for the treatment of blood pressure, diabetes, cardiac diseases, cough, flue, fever, weakness and some of them are prescribed to women during pregnancy, besides some painkillers.
According to new lists of drug prices provided to the medicine market by the MNCs, the manufacturer’s retail price (MRP) of Brufen 400mg tablets have jumped from Rs445.51 to Rs599.44, showing an increase of 34.55 per cent; Epiva 250mg tablets from Rs470.78 to Rs516.30 (up by 7.83pc); Neophage 500mg tablets from Rs821.1 to Rs887.3 (increased by 8.06pc); Neophage 850mg tablets from Rs56.07 to Rs92.44 (up by 65.07pc) and Duphaston tablets from Rs494.5 to Rs540 (increased by 9.20pc).
Meanwhile, the Punjab government has ordered the district administration to foil attempts to increase the prices.
According to sources, Punjab’s chief drug controller, Dr Zaka-ur-Rehman, has directed drug controllers and drug inspectors to undertake survey of markets to prepare a list of companies that had increased the prices of their products, besides probing the matter whether an artificial shortage of medicines has been created in the wake of recent price hike.
Commenting over the recent hike in prices of medicines, Wholesale Chemists Council of Pakistan’s (WCCP) president Muhammad Atif Hanif Blue alleged that the MNCs have, on the one hand, increased the prices of medicines and, on the other hand, created an `artificial’ shortage of drugs in the market.
Terming the raise in drug prices `unjust’ and `uncalled for’, he said over 50pc increase in drug prices is not acceptable as it will further add to the sufferings of poor patients.
He demanded of the federal government to compel the MNCs to withdraw the recent increase on medicines prices. He also appealed to the Supreme Court to take suo moto notice of the price hike.
Condemning the hike in medicine prices, Pakistan Chemists and Druggists Association’s (PCDA) chief Riyaz Hussain demanded of the government to waive general sales tax on medicines.
He also urged the multinational pharmaceutical firms to reduce the prices of medicines so that poor patients might not suffer on account of high cost of medicines.