ISLAMABAD - Special Assistant to Prime Minister on National Health Services Dr Zafar Mirza admitted that pharmaceutical companies disobeyed orders for reducing prices of 395 medicines, adding that the ministry would approach drug courts for recovery of around Rs8 billion from the industry.

Dr Zafar Mirza said this in a press briefing held here on Thursday. He said that prices of 395 medicines had to be decreased from the month of January when the government had fixed new prices of the medicines.

He said that the government on December 2018 had approved the price increase of 464 medicines and decreased the prices of 395 medicines which the industry had not implemented.

Dr Zafar Mirza said that the pharmaceutical industry challenged the decision of decreasing the prices of 395 medicines in court, while the ministry contested and finally the court gave its verdict in the favour of the government for reducing the prices.

“Despite of the court’s order, the pharmaceutical companies did not reduce the prices and challenged the writ of the government,” said Dr Mirza.

He said that 395 medicines also included life saving and essential drugs, adding that now the ministry following the law had decided to take the pharmaceutical companies into the drug courts.

He said that the ministry would take up the matter of all 395 medicines and would take measures to reduce the prices of each medicine from this number.

He said that according to a conservative estimate, the ministry through drug court would recover Rs8 billion from the companies involved in price hike of 395 medicines and submit the same into national exchequer.

He said that the ministry through ministry of finance will deposit Rs8 billion in the account of Bait-ul-Mal which will be spent on public health.

Replying to a query asked by The Nation, Dr Zafar Mirza said that the companies will though provide 395 medicines on new reduced prices; however the previous batches will be cleared on previous prices.

“Industry has committed sending fresh batches on reduced prices but many of the drugs manufacturers raised the problem of clearing the previous batches of medicines,” he said.  Dr Mirza said that it was difficult to call back entire batches of medicines from the market.

Dr Mirza also announced that ministry had withdrawn the 9 percent increase given in the prices of the medicines and it will issue an SRO for implementation. He said that prices of medicines were increased from 50% to 75% in the category of 9 percent increased given.

 Briefing about the 464 medicines which prices were increased from 100% to 500% illegally by the pharmaceutical companies, he said that the prices will be reduced to 75 percent.

He said that life saving injection which was being sold for Rs86 after the illegal increase was available in the market for Rs178, however; after bringing down its price to 75% increase given; its new price will be Rs120. 

He said that the 75% legal increase was given by the government as the prices were not increased since 2013.

He said that the reduction of exorbitant prices of 464 medicines will save Rs1 billion to consumers and overall the ministry has calculated savings of Rs10 billion after the decrease of prices. 

However, he also said that the industry had calculated savings up to Rs15 billion which will be returned to public through Bait-ul-Mal.

He also said that around 50 to 60 essential and life saving drugs were not available in the market and industry had been conveyed to start its production. “Shortage of live saving drugs is not acceptable,” he said.

Dr Mirza also said that the ministry will make new medicine policy in its long run plan to address the matter on permanent basis. He said that the policy will ensure availability of essential medicines on low cost.