TIP shows concerns over Corona vaccine procurement

Amraiz Khan

Transparency International Pakistan (TIP) while rejecting the government Drug Pricing Policy regarding Corona vaccination has termed it a misstatement on Wednesday.

In a letter to Secretary NHSR&C Ministry of National Health Services, Regulations & Coordination Islamabad TIP head in Pakistan said refer to your response vide letter No. 1-1/2021/Secy/NHSR&C dated 24th March 2021 to TI Pakistan letter No. TL 2021/03/22/1A.

Your clarification that the “Drug Pricing Policy for import of drugs under hardship category was applied to Covid vaccine to keep a check on prices instead of leaving it solely to free market dynamics”, is a misstatement.

The letter further speaks, “It may be pointed out that the Drug Pricing Policy 2018 clearly defines the mechanism for hardship cases, as quoted below”.

For imported drugs in finished form and local labeling & cartooning Trade Price = (Landed cost + packaging cost) + markup @ 45% provided that in case of anti-cancer, biological, immunosuppressant and anti-retroviral drugs, that markup shall be 40%.

In case of imported drugs in finished form and finished import & local packaging, MRP shall be calculated by grossing up trade price to provide for retail discount @ 15% (for biological, immunosuppressant drugs).

Internationally, single dose of Sputnik V cost $10. If we apply DRAP pricing formula Sputnik V two doses price in Pakistan should be RS. 1600 + 40% =2240*2 = 4480.

However, the DRAP approved price for two doses is Rs. 8, 449 which is 89pc higher. The above shows that the DRAP has violated Drug Pricing Policy 2018.

Similarly, clause 6 (iii) of Drug Pricing Policy 2018 is quoted for your reference: “…….If average price of the Originator Brand in India & Bangladesh is lower by between 0% and 30% then MRP will be reduced by that difference and simultaneously will be netted off over the applicable annual increase under this Policy.

In case the Originator Brand is available in one of these countries, retail price in that country will be taken as reference for this purpose”.

The retail price for a single dose Sputnik V vaccine in India in less than INR 734. With this rate, taking into consideration the currency value difference, a single dose of Sputnik V vaccine should cost approx. Rs. 1500 in Pakistan.

Secondly, your letter mentions that “The courts have given further strength to the government by endorsing its diverse efforts to fight the pandemic”.

It may be pointed out that there is no Court order on commercial import of COVID-19 vaccine, which was the main objection of TI Pakistan in its letter dated 22nd March 2021, and Supreme Court of Pakistan has already taken up Suo Motu on COVID-19 related procurement by the government.

Third, the letter mentions that the government “as a deliberate policy tool, allowed private sector to import vaccine to cater to those segments of the society, which were not on the immediate priority list of the government”.

It may be pointed that such a policy is a tool to exacerbate the already existing inequality in Pakistan.

People who want to bypass the priority list, and get vaccinated first, they are already travelling to other countries to get vaccinated on priority basis.

The government should not encourage such a policy of favoring a certain section of the society at the cost of transparency.

It is also not clarified as to why Pakistan is the only country in the world to allow private import of COVID-19 vaccine for commercial sale.

The biggest apprehension of TI Pakistan is that with the permission of commercial sale of the COVID-19 vaccine, there are possibilities that some of the government’s vaccine may end up illegally in the private hospitals for commercial sale.

There are also news reports that the decision to allow private sector to import COVID vaccine has been done under pressure.

Therefore, to avoid such controversies, it is important that the Ministry of National Health Sciences, Regulation & Coordination put a complete ban on private import of vaccine for commercial sale in Pakistan.

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