Hike in drugs prices

THE Government, on Friday, approved nine to fifteen percent increase in prices of drugs on the plea to provide relief to the local manufacturers following unprecedented devaluation of rupee. Drug Regulatory Authority of Pakistan (DRAP) claimed the current increase is due to 30% decrease in value of rupee against dollar in 2018, high cost of utilities and shortage of raw material supplies.
The latest hike might be justified on account of reasons enumerated by the regulatory authority and in fact, pharmacists had been demanding a thirty percent increase in prices for the last several months. However, the increase becomes punching in view of the complaints being raised time and again since long that prices of medicines are much higher in Pakistan than other regional countries including India and that importers of raw material resort to over-invoicing. There are several studies available to give a comparison of how discriminately the people of Pakistan are charged by the multi-national and local manufacturers of drugs. It may also be recalled that there had also been complaints of unauthorized increase in prices of almost all drugs besides an officially approved four percent increase in prices of over ten thousand drugs in July last year. The increase would hit the people most as prices of drugs are already on the higher side and patients would find it difficult to afford medical treatment especially those who are suffering from cost-intensive diseases. It would be an additional burden on people that were already hard-pressed due to steep rise in prices of gas, electricity, bread and a host of other items and services.
And this is not an end as the Government is preparing its second mini budget envisaging measures that would fuel inflation and make life of the people more miserable. We have been pointing out in these columns that there was absolutely no justification for devaluation of rupee as it only results into price-hike in the country. The intended benefits of devaluation in terms of enhanced exports never materialized in the past and there is no indication of any positive change now but people suffer badly due to its fall out. An elected Government is supposed to keep welfare of the people upper-most while formulating policies and taking decisions in different spheres of life. We would also urge the authorities concerned to ensure complete transparency in fixation of prices of drugs as the existing mechanism benefits only the industry without regard for interests of consumers.

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