Senate standing committee condemns medicines price hike

ISLAMABAD - The Senate standing committee on National Health Services (NHS) on Wednesday disapproving the 15per cent increase in prices of medicine condemned government for bowing before the pressure of pharmaceutical companies.

The meeting of the senate standing committee on NHS was held here under the chairmanship of Senator Mian Muhammad Ateeq Sheikh. The meeting was attended by Senator Asad Ashraf, Senator Ashok Kumar, Senator Liaqat Khan Tarakai, Senator Prof Mehar Taj Roghani, Senator Sana Jamali and Senator Manzoor Ahmed.

The senators while criticizing the ministry for the 15percent increase in the drugs price declare it an anti-public act by the government.

“No pharmaceutical company is in loss in-fact their profit has increased in previous years,” remarked chairman committee senator Ateeq Shaikh.

The meeting while discussing the public importance point of recent increase in the prices of medicines moved by Senator Siraj-ul-Haq urged the ministry to satisfy the standing committee with reasons for increasing the prices of medicines.

Senator Siraj-ul-Haq opening the discussion on the point said that the increase in the prices of medicine has shifted extra financial burden on the public and government must give subsidy to the people on it.

Senator Ashok Kumar told the committee that the prices of life-saving drugs worldwide are kept low for the availability of the patients but the government has taken reverse action being practised globally.

He also said that the government approved the new prices taking the pressure of the pharmaceutical companies in just seven days.

He said that the minister tabled the summary of increased prices of medicine before federal cabinet on December 20, 2018, approved it from the Task Force on Health on 21st of December and approved it from the cabinet on December 27, 2018.

“The fast track increase in medicine price is unacceptable,” he remarked.

He also said that the medicine of Rs400 is now being purchased on Rs800 in the market.

Senator Asad Ashraf said that the Drug Regulatory Authority of Pakistan (DRAP) has not maintained the online record of all available medicines in the country.

He said that the medicine is manufactured in Rs28 is available in the market in Rs650 because DRAP has no control over the pricing of the medicines.

Minister for NHS Aamir Mehmood Kiyani said that the fluctuating price of the dollar in the international market also brought an impact on the increase of raw material required for the manufacturing of medicine.

Secretary NHS Zahid Saeed briefing the committee said that last increase in the medicine prices was done in 2001 while the pharmaceutical companies have reached to Supreme Court (SC) for an increase in prices of the medicines.

He said that SC had directed the ministry to resolve the issue of prices within 10 weeks. He also said that pharmaceutical companies had refused to manufacture the hardship molecules as they were struggling in maintain the production cost.  Director Pricing DRAP Dr Amanullah briefed the committee that nine companies have approached the court for an increase in the prices of the medicines and court directed the DRAP to resolve the matter.

He said that DRAP has also decreased the price of around 400medicnes out of 889 registered with it.

Chairman committee Ateeq Shaikh whole pharmaceutical industry has been allowed to increase the prices of all medicines, while some have increased more than the percentage government allowed.

He also remarked that it was not suitable for the government to submit before the pressure of the pharmaceutical companies.

He also said that the price of antibiotic has been also increased and the medicine prices have gone beyond before the purchasing power of the poor.

The chair directed the ministry to brief the standing committee on the increase of medicine prices in the country.

The health officials also briefed the committee that the matter of establishing Islamabad Health Authority (IHA) is delayed as the formation of the selection committee for the IHA is being reviewed.

Secretary NHS Zahid Saeed said that the previous government had initiated the establishment of IHA following the model of Health Care Commission in the provinces.

He said that the 13member selection committee for appointing Board of Governors (BoGs) of the IHA was not meeting all legal criteria and the new government de-notified the previous committee.

The committee made a recommendation for Prime Minister (PM) to early approve the IHA for the healthcare system of the federal city.

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