As the government considers a proposal to increase prices of medicines by 18 percent across the board, hawks are inevitably gearing up to voice protests and say ‘I told you so’ and blame the government for everything under the sun. The fact is, misguided though this government generally is, this move may not be as illogical as it seems on face value. This is not done to marginalize the poor, but instead incentivize an industry that is in rapid decline, but is instrumental to the lives of all citizens. The prices of some medicines have not increased for the past twelve years, and the cost of production has been consistently rising.

Although pharmaceutical companies are in the business of producing life saying drugs, when all is said and done, it’s still a business. And like any other business, its main motivation is to make profit. To ensure the quality standards of various medicines, these companies must be provided reasons to not take the easy way out and make medicines that can potentially harm the user. There have been cases in the past where even simple drugs such as cough syrups have led to deaths because of problems in the manufacturing process.

With that said, the government needs to find other ways the implement quality control as well. Just because the prices are increasing does not mean that pharmaceutical companies will clean up their act out of goodwill to the public. Checks and balances need to be put in place to keep the industry in line and adhere to the rules and regulations regarding production. Fake medicines have sprung up in the market which is a serious danger for anyone suffering from even simple ailments such as the common cold. These must be rooted out and the drugs making their way in to the market should be screened properly.

It must also be noted that in the past twelve years, every other aspect of healthcare in Pakistan has seen inflation, and hospitalization takes up a big chunk of the average consumer’s health budget; around 88 percent of it. Over the course of the twelve years, the cost of getting admitted in to a hospital has increased by 200 percent, so while the government is quick to point out where prices have not increased, maybe they should also focus on working on areas where prices have increased by too much.