February 2, 2024
ISLAMABAD – The caretaker federal cabinet on Thursday approved an increase in the prices of 146 essential life-saving medicines, state-run Radio Pakistan reported.
The cabinet meeting was chaired by interim Prime Minister Anwaarul Haq Kakar in Islamabad.
According to the report, the surge in prices was recommended by the Ministry of National Health considering the rising prices of raw materials in the global market.
During the meeting, PM Kakar said the government was taking “every possible step” for the provision of medicines to the common man at a suitable price.
He added that the government was devising policies that would not only benefit the common man but also the pharmaceutical industry.
“The prime minister directed to prepare recommendations to further improve the performance of the Drug Regulatory Authority of Pakistan (Drap).
“He further directed to speed up the actions against hoarding and smuggling of drugs. For the deregulation of drug prices, the prime minister said suggestions should be forwarded to prepare a draft summary for legislation by the next elected parliament,” Radio Pakistan said.
It added that the health ministry and Drap informed the meeting’s participants that citizens could file complaints regarding the non-availability of medicines in the market through the authority’s online portal.
A countrywide persistent shortage of several life-saving drugs has opened floodgates of smuggled drugs in the market and the patients are forced to pay three to five times higher prices to buy the essential medicines than their actual rates.
The drug crisis hit most parts of the country hard after caretaker Health Minister Dr Nadeem Jan and the Pakistan Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Association (PPMA) locked horns over the review of the prices of 262 drugs of hardship cases.
According to the documents (a copy available with Dawn), the proposed prices of 262 drugs were reviewed and approved by Drap under its policy in November 2022. It had sent the same to the health ministry to consider them in the cabinet meeting to issue a notification but the matter was pending since then.
The situation had aggravated when the caretaker health minister opposed Drap’s decision and left the matter of 262 hardship cases to be decided by the ‘upcoming government’ while the manufacturers’ association declared the decision disastrous, saying it could jeopardise the health and safety of individuals battling severe diseases besides the drug industry.