ISLAMABAD - In a high-level meeting held on Friday, Minister for National Health Services Saira Afzal Tarar took serious note of illegal hike in prices of medicines and ordered across the board strict action against manufacturers and retailers unilaterally and illegally raising prices of drugs.The minister asked the chief commissioner Islamabad, federal drug inspector, and drug inspector ICT to initiative action immediately and register cases against such elements. She said some companies have resorted to illegal practices like unilateral price hike. These companies after illegally raising the prices seek restraining orders from the court to avoid action by Drug Regulatory Authority of Pakistan (DRAP).She said 14 drugs companies had enhanced the prices illegally in the year 2012 and DRAP took legal action against them. The companies sought stay order which was granted by the Sindh High Court. DRAP is making efforts vigorously in the Supreme Court to get the stay order cancelled.The minister was informed that at present 30 cases against the drug companies are being contested in the courts by DRAP. The meeting was informed that Pakistan Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Association (PPMA) has managed to get operation of notification withdrawing 15 per cent increase in drug prices suspended by the Sindh High Court. Furthermore, some companies are misusing the orders of the court to enhance the prices of drugs that were not included in the raise notified and then withdrawn on 29th November 2013. DRAP has issued notices to all such companies. Ministry of NHSR&C and DRAP has approached the attorney general of Pakistan and law division to contest the case in Sindh High Court on the next date of hearing fixed on 22nd January 2014. The meeting was told that major reforms are being introduced in DRAP. A meeting is scheduled on 16th January 2014 where Drug Pricing Policy would be deliberated and recommendation made. The governing body of the authority held four meeting and made major decisions including the amendment of various rules frames under the Drugs Act 1976. The Drugs Licensing Board, Registration Board, Appellate Board, Advertising Committee, and Drug Pricing Committee have been revitalised. As on 31st December, 2013 all applications for drug manufacturing licensing have been disposed of including grant of 16 new drug manufacturing licences and 42 expansion projects in the existing investments.Similarly the Registration Board held its four meeting and granted 938 new registrations and 1034 contract manufacturing approval. A landmark development is the establishment of a dossier evaluation cell, institutionalising the mechanism of evaluation of the registration application as to their quality. For Various operations in the DRAP including the licensing and the registration standard operating procedure and guidelines have been placed on the website of the authority. Rules for the administration of new areas of responsibility of the DRAP, namely medical devices and alternate medicines have been drafted after thorough consultation with provincial government and the stakeholders. The minister was informed that a number of meeting have been held in coordination with the narcotics control division for the allocation of the quota of the controlled drugs to ensure their availability in the market. Similarly the appellate held two meetings disposing off 60 appeals filed by various pharmaceutical companies.Appreciating the recent polio campaigns in Islamabad that covered 99 per cent of target children Saira Afzal Tarar stressed to continue the hard work and momentum to keep up the performance. Bill on "Islamabad Healthcare Regulatory Authority 2014" was also presented to the meeting. In line with the vision of Islamabad Model Health Initiative, the draft bill featured many steps to strengthen and improve healthcare facilities and professionals, to stop quackery and improve basic service delivery of healthcare facilities through comprehensive regulatory regime. Broad contours of the draft bill was shared with concerned stakeholder. A briefing on Islamabad Blood Transfusion was also given during the meeting.This news was published in The Nation newspaper. Read complete newspaper of 11-Jan-2014 here.