It is highly unfortunate that the Drug Regulatory Authority of Pakistan allowed a multinational company to sell a lifesaving anti-cancer drug at three times its import price. The DRAP does not allow these drugs to be produced locally, often on very frivolous grounds. The Institute of Molecular Biology, Punjab University has produced an anti-hepatitis drug at a very affordable price but has not been granted a patent by the DRAP. It is commonly known that anti-hepatitis and anti-cancer drugs are extremely expensive if compared with neighboring India where these drugs are locally manufactured and even, exported.

Pakistan does not lack manpower and technical capacity to produce these medicines but multinationals have a strong hold on patenting and can exploit the corrupt and unethical officials of regulatory authorities as well as the bureaucrats and politicians. The common man turns out to be the ultimate sufferer. Medical practitioners are often offered lavish incentives to prescribe the expensive brands of such medicines when there are cheaper alternatives available. Pharmaceuticals have been notorious for offering extravagant foreign trips, expensive vehicles on instalments and even residences in posh localities only to get their products prescribed. The indifference of the Pakistan Medical and Dental Council (PMDC) in enforcement of its ethical provisions is also very concerning. The PMDC rules in this regard have always been clear but have never been effectively put into practice.

Putting an end to this malpractice is not rocket science provided that the government is genuinely interested in aiding the poor masses. The health delivery system of Pakistan is based on that of the United Kingdom to an extent. Medical audit is an effective tool to gauge the cost of prescribed medicine in UK. Pakistan, however, has no such system in place and doctors in public hospitals, right from primary to tertiary health facilities can indiscriminately prescribe these expensive brands. The government has to step in and make sure regulation is properly enforced and that hospitals have adequate funds and stocks of drugs to be dispensed.