LAHORE - Pharmaceutical companies have supported drugs pricing policy, saying it would reduce the discretion of government functionaries and facilitate the industry in business planning.

The federal government announced first ever drugs pricing policy last Wednesday, allowing pharmaceutical companies to annually increase prices of scheduled drugs up to 50 per cent of Consumer Price Index (CPI) with a cap of 4pc and of non-schedule drugs to 70pc of CPI with a cap of 6pc. The government freezes prices of drugs till June 30, 2016, at current approved level.

Pharmacists Association ex-chairman Amjad Ali Jawa has said that the policy has provided a mechanism for regular increase in prices of drugs with inflation. However, withdrawal of 15pc increase in prices of drugs by Prime Minister on the very next day of notification in 2014 was a great injustice with the local industry already facing huge hardships, he added.

Jawa also demanded of allowing 15 per cent increase before freezing the prices.

“Annual increase in prices will be automatic subject to the condition that it does not exceed CPI. This will reduce interaction between regulators and local industry. These regulators are more inclined towards multinational companies who always get good increase as compared to local manufacturers”, he said, adding that price reduction up to 30pc on originator brands with annual reduction up to 10pc every year. After four years, prices of originator brands will be decreased by 10 per cent every year. The prices will continue to decrease for three years to bring these at par with the rates in India and Bangladesh,” he said.

Multinational companies were marketing drugs at a much lesser price in India and Bangladesh. This would help reducing prices of many drugs and would bring these close to the rates of medicines of local manufacturers, he added.

Prof Javed Akram, who is also running a pharmaceutical company, went on to say that there was need of regulating the prices of drugs, except scheduled and orphan drugs. “Firms should decide the prices at own. Government should regulate prices of essential drugs only. Healthy competition will maintain prices at low level. Government should deregulate drugs that would benefit the local industry and consumers”, he said.