IN what could be termed as a matter of serious concern warranting immediate attention on the part of high ups, the country is faced with an acute shortage of critical medicines reportedly because of a simmering dispute between the pharmaceutical industry and the health ministry over the prices of medicines. The pharma industry is demanding a substantial increase of thirty eighty percent in medicines citing reasons such as increase in their costs and devaluation of local currency. The government, however, has rejected the demand, propelling pharmaceutical companies to either stop or go into a limited-scale production of scores of essential and non-essential medicines.
These indeed are difficult times for everybody be it the industry or the consumer and pharma industry is no exception to it. Increasing costs of fuel, electricity, freight charges, cold chain maintenance, packing material and other factors have affected the medicine business. We understand the problems the pharmaceutical industry is facing due to the current economic situation but on the other hand it should also see the condition of poor consumers for whom many essential commodities including lifesaving drugs have gone beyond their reach. Any further increase and that too of thirty eight percent will amount to rubbing salt on their wounds. Some of the industry’s points are valid and we fully endorse them but the fact of the matter is that the raw material of many medicines have also gone cheaper in recent years due to global competition which is earning huge profits for local manufacturers. According to Pakistan Medical Association itself the pharma industry, at present, is not in loss but their profits have only shrunk. Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif had constituted a committee under the Chairmanship of Ishaq Dar to thrash out the issue. It should immediately sit with the pharma industry and find the solution that serves the interests of both the consumers and the industry. It must be ensured that there is no supply disruption and that the medicines are available to the people. We will suggest that instead of increasing prices, the government and the pharmaceutical industry together share the burden of inflation and rupee devaluation. We are all for supporting the pharma industry as by exploiting its true potential, the country can significantly enhance its exports and earn valuable foreign exchange.