LAHORE - Powerful pharmaceutical companies have managed to get the prices of important drugs increased for the third time in less than seven months, putting additional burden on the pocket of ailing humanity.

As per the Drug Pricing Policy that allows annual increase in prices of drugs in the light of Consumer Price Index (CPI), the Drug Pricing Committee of Drug Regulatory Authority of Pakistan (DRAP) has increased prices of more than 70,000 medicines for hepatitis, diabetes, kidney and related issues, and antibiotics.

Price increase on scheduled drugs is (50% of CPI) 1.43%, non-scheduled drugs (70% of CPI) 2.002% and lower priced drugs (equal to CPI) 2.86%.

Prior to this annual increase in the prices of drugs, the DRAP considered hardship cases and increased prices of various drugs from April to June. Before that, a number of pharmaceutical companies increased prices of their products at own in January 2016 and later obtained a stay order. Due to lack of interest on the part of DRAP officials, the stay could not be vacated that enabled pharmaceutical companies to continue selling the medicines at inflated prices.

Doctors and pharmacists in general and public at large in particular have rejected the recent increase saying that allowing annual increase in prices of all medicines was a big joke as the pharmaceutical companies were getting the same at will with the help of stooges in DRAP.

“Nothing will happen even if the recent increase in prices is withdrawn. Prior to this annual increase under the pretext of CPI, prices of important drugs have already been increased twice in this year. First time the companies increased prices of drugs at own in January and later obtained a stay order. After that the prices were increased in the name of hardship cases from April to June,” said Noor Muhammad Mehar, a pharmacist by profession having expertise in drug laws.

“The policy allows increase in prices of drugs on annual basis. As such the regulator is supporting the manufacturers. Ailing humanity is the ultimate sufferer of nexus of DRAP officials and pharmaceutical companies,” he lamented.

“If we count all increases in prices of drugs this year, the accumulative effect will be from 100 to 300 percent,” he added.

Mehar urged the political leadership to intervene and get reverted increase in prices of drugs. He stressed properly perusing the court cases and denying pharmaceutical companies increase in prices of drugs in January this year. He also suggested identifying stooges of pharmaceutical companies and removing them from DRAP.

He further regretted that the pharmas decide percentage at own while increasing prices as DRAP lacked data. Stressing the need of preparing list of all drugs with prices and displaying the same on website, he also suggested inclusion of technocrats in the drug pricing committee to safeguard rights of the poor patients.