Govt exploits forces of pharmaceuticals to boost costs
The government has done away with the control of pharmaceutical firms to raise the costs of medicines of their own amid the resistance of certain cabinet members, going accordance with the instructions from the prime minister, the government has now scrapped all the parts of Drugs Pricing Policy, which explicitly negates the Drugs Act 1976.
Prime Minister Imran Khan was very perturbed about the drugs prices that swelled in the last 10 months and owing to this very cause, the top man of the country had called for changing the Drugs Pricing Policy. Under Para 7 of current Drugs Pricing Policy, pharmaceutical firms had the powers to raise the medicines prices depending on the market price index without permission from the ministry and to this purpose they had to only notify the health ministry 30 days prior regarding their decision with regard to raising the price. Under the previous regulation, it was compulsory to get approval from the ministry prior to issuance of the notification with respect to rise in the medicines prices.
In the federal cabinet meeting on 7 July, two leaders of the cabinet – PM Consultant on Trade, Textile and Investment Abdul Razak Dawood and PM Special Assistant on Health Dr Zafar Mirza argued that the forces would remain with pharmaceutical firms to raise the prices of medicines on their own, but Secretary of Health Aamer Ashraf Khawaja strongly opposed the cabinet members and supported the abolishment of the powers earlier vested with the pharmaceutical industry to raise the prices adding the powers to increase prices of medicines would stay with the DRAP (Drug Regulatory Authority of Pakistan) and the Ministry of Health. Secretary also pleaded that the notice with respect to rise in prices should be released by the government of Pakistan.
According to the official papers, Special Assistant PM on Health Dr Zafar Mirza and Adviser to PM on Trade, Textile and Investment Razak Dawood opposed the push for doing away with the forces of pharmaceutical firms to raise prices of drugs, but on behalf of Ministry of Health, a review was moved demanding exclusion of Para-7 of Drugs Pricing Policy 2018, but SAPM to PM on Health Dr Zafar Mirza failed to have the description removed from the agenda of the federal cabinet meeting took up on June 24.
Nonetheless, on July 2, 2020, Prime Minister Imran Khan, who is also National Health Services, Regulations and Coordination (NHSR&C) Minister-in-Charge, called an exclusive conference on medication pricing. During that specific meeting, the Ministry of Health had announced the powers of pharmaceutical firms to increase the prices as stated in the Para 7 of Drugs Pricing Policy as against the section 12 of Drugs Act 1976 stating that the Ministry of Health has the legal right to issue the notification for any rise in the drugs prices. The two said cabinet members opposed the Health Ministry’s summary arguing that with removal of the powers to increase prices, pharmaceutical companies will be left on the mercy of bureaucracy in the ministry.
As per the papers, on July 2, 2020, the conference was attended by SAPM on NHS, R & C, Representatives of Task Force on Education, Secretary M / o NHS, R&C and Chief Executive Officer of Drug Regulatory Agency (DRAP).