By Dr Anis Rehman
In a surprising move, the Government of Pakistan has allowed pharmaceutical companies to increase prices of 94 life-saving drugs by 262 per cent. Government’s recent reforms in the health sector attribute to the increase in the pricing of these medicines.
Need for a hike in drug prices
That is to say Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on National Health Services (SAPM), Dr Sultan vindicated the move. He stated that the government made the decision to eliminate the shortage of drugs at local markets.
Also, he explained the increase was justified as people sold drugs through unregulated channels. Consequently, this, in turn, received plenty of criticism. As an increase in prices might put the lives of low patients at risk either due to non-availability of medicines or extravagant prices. Another peril of price hike is that patients can become more inclined towards purchasing medicines of dubious quality.
In addition to life-saving drugs; those used to treat blood pressure, epilepsy, gestational and cardiac emergencies, and imported anti-cancer drugs are also included.
Response by pharma companies
Moreover, many pharmaceutical companies have lauded Government for the gutsy move. Consequently, these companies faced a reduction in profit. That is to say a rise in prices of imported raw material utilized in the manufacturing of these drugs and a hike of electricity prices for the production. Therefore, increment in prices should ensure the availability of life-saving medicines. However, the notification from Government stated that pharmaceutical companies would not be allowed to raise prices further until June 2021.
Impact of the increase in drug prices
Most importantly, this decision came amid global pandemic. As the country already trying hard to cope with the terrible economic crisis. Pakistan Medical Association (PMA) had already shown concern about the increase in prices. The Association demanded the Federal Government to review and withdraw this decision to ease difficulties amongst the poor.
Rather than increasing prices of life-saving drugs drastically to the general public, the Federal Government should consider other ways to provide relief to manufacturers.
Certainly by challenging smuggling of medicines and also by reducing import duties and taxes for raw material required in manufacturing can make a difference.
Majority of Pakistanis are already living below the poverty line, and the provision of life-saving drugs should always be at a lower cost. Placing priorities of the poor and underprivileged above all can manifest good governance.
Majority of Pakistanis are already living below the poverty line, and the provision of life-saving drugs should always be at a lower cost. Good governance is still manifested by placing priorities of the poor and underprivileged above all.
-The author is contributing writer at Dental News and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org