Another hike in drug prices

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At a time when people were strongly agitating against a steep rise in prices of almost all medicines in recent months, the Federal Cabinet, which met in Islamabad on Tuesday with Prime Minister Imran Khan in the chair, strangely enough decided to accord approval for yet another increase in the prices of 50 medicines.

Briefing newsmen about decisions of the meeting, Minister for Information and Broadcasting Fawad Chaudhry said it also accorded an approval to a pending ordinance under which those elected MPs who do not take oath within sixty days after elections, would lose their seat.

The prices of medicines have witnessed repeated hike in Pakistan during the last three years when they went up by almost 300%, pushing medical treatment beyond the capacity of an average citizen.

Apart from and unjust and wholesale increase in prices in 2019 that caused the then Minister for Health Amir Kiani to lose his job, the prices have been increased frequently during the last one year mainly on the plea of exchange rate, despite the fact that prices of raw material fell from $2,000 to just $25 in the same period.

The manufacturers also pocket huge profit through over and under-invoicing as a result of which prices of commonly used and life-saving drugs are much higher in Pakistan than in the neighbouring countries.

The increase in prices is negation of the Government’s oft-repeated claims of providing affordable healthcare to every citizen.

No doubt, the Government is in the process of distributing health cards among some segments of the society but the sharp increase in prices of medicines, together with proportionate increase in fee and laboratory tests, has added to the woes of all citizens especially middle income and fixed-income groups.

As for approval of the ordinance paving the way for election of Finance Minister Shaukat Tarin as Senator, there is surely logic to give a clear-cut timeframe for taking oath (after election) as those elected are supposed to represent people and safeguard their interests in the respective houses.

However, instead of doing this through ordinance, the proposal should have been part of the overall electoral reforms but these are not coming on track because of dramatic differences in approach of the Government and the Opposition parties.

A case in point is the use of Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) which the Government wants to be there at the time of next general election while the Opposition terms it as an attempt to hijack the results.

Better sense should prevail to sort out the matter through threadbare discussion; otherwise, there would be no end to allegations of rigging, depriving the election process of the required credibility.

 

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