The rise in import prices of pharmaceutical raw materials and the resultant increase in production costs has started to reflect in the shortage of several essential drugs that are used to treat life-threatening diseases and mental illnesses. According to reports, at least 40 medicines have vanished from the shelves in different parts of the country in recent weeks because most producers have stopped importing expensive ingredients due to the regulator’s refusal to jack up retail prices of their finished products. Drug pricing in the country has always been a politically charged subject and the over-regulation on part of the authorities is clearly not working as intended and is putting the vulnerable populations across the country at risk.

Many are of the view that this is just the beginning and that market players are anticipating further shortages down the line if the pricing structure is not revised. This crisis has been brewing for a while as the industry margins have continued to shrink owing to rising production costs. The Drug Regulatory Authority of Pakistan (DRAP) is yet to address the ongoing shortage that is disproportionately impacting patients who are forced to either cut down on their daily doses or pay a much higher price to procure these medicines from the black market.

https://www.nation.com.pk/05-Oct-2022/gold-bounces-back-in-pakistan-as-price-rises-by-over-1-percent

Shortages have occurred on multiple occasions in the past and experts are of the view that over-regulation inhibits the growth and export potential of the industry, in addition to driving away foreign investment. This needs to be changed considering how other countries in the region have also successfully undertaken deregulation measures that have had a positive impact on the incentive structures of the industry.

At the same time, innovative approaches must be sought to protect vulnerable groups who should have access to free or subsidized medicines that are critical. Senior health experts have also expressed concern over the acute shortage of medicines and rising prices stating the crisis could be very disastrous for poor people. Skyrocketing inflation has already taken a serious toll on the disadvantaged segments of society and this crisis will only add to their misery. The government must step in at the earliest to address the pricing structure issues and ensure easy access of medicines for those who need them the most.