DRAP Okays Price Hike For 25 Life-Saving Drugs Amid Complaints From Consumers

Punjab caretaker health minister suggests local production of medicines, raw materials to help lower cost of drugs

DRAP Okays Price Hike For 25 Life-Saving Drugs Amid Complaints From Consumers

The Drug Regulatory Authority of Pakistan (DRAP) has decided to raise the price of 25 life-saving drugs, The Friday Times has learnt. 

The hike in prices of life-saving drugs is another huge blow to the poor masses who are finding it difficult to make ends meet in the rising inflation. 

According to a notification issued by DRAP, the regulator has raised the price for a pack of 20 tablets of Paracetamol and Diphenhydramine to Rs192. The notification further noted that the new price of Chloroquine, used for treating malaria, has been fixed at Rs1,007. 

"The price of cancer drug Lyrica's has been fixed at Rs 846,857," according to the DRAP notification. 

Speaking to The Friday Times, Dr Sehar Raza, an Anaesthesiologist, said that apart from this, the medicine to treat lung cancer patients, which is available for Rs850,000 in Pakistan, costs just Rs290,000 across the border in India (India is one of the largest pharmaceutical manufacturers in the world and source for medical raw material). 

The DRAP has also increased the prices of inhalers used by asthma patients to Rs1,390. Meanwhile, the cost of injection used by hepatitis patients has been raised to Rs10,275. 

"The new price of the injection used in cancer treatment, Bortezomib, has been set at Rs17,513, and the cost of the antibiotic used for infections, Zerbexa, is now available at Rs15,356," as per DRAP notification. 

Patients' Ordeal 

Ghulam Hussain, whose son has been suffering from lung cancer since last year, told The Friday Times that this recent hike in price would be nothing less than a death blow to him as he hardly earns Rs35,000 from his job and he has three other children to take care of. 

"We have sold our house and other assets and are currently living in a rented house," he said dejectedly. 

Agreeing with him, Tahseen Bibi, a widow who works in different houses to make ends meet and buy treatment for her only son, who suffers from asthma. 

"I earn Rs10,000 from which I have to pay rent, manage groceries, pay my son's tuition fee and also purchase his medicines, which is a gigantic task after a recent hike," she said, adding that with a hike in the price of an inhaler, it has made it difficult to manage expenses. 

Government hospitals cannot provide expensive cancer medicines to outdoor patients 

Speaking to The Friday Times, Punjab Caretaker Health Minister Javed Akram said they were ensuring that patients are provided medicines free of cost in the emergency and indoor departments at government-run hospitals. 

"We don't have the resources to provide free medicines to outdoor patients," Dr Akram admitted. 

He said if more privileged and affluent philanthropists join hands with the government, the situation may improve. For example, he pointed to how Caretaker Federal Industries Minister Gohar Ejaz was providing imported medicines in a state-run hospital in Lahore.

What is the solution? 

Speaking to The Friday Times, Dr Akram maintained that this problem will continue until our domestic pharmaceutical industry starts making these medicines, especially raw materials. 

"Once we start making these medicines in Pakistan, their prices would automatically come down," the health minister said, adding that the prices of medicines fluctuate because they are dependent on imports in one way or another and are impacted by the changes in the price of a US dollar. 

So, we need to devise a strategy and ensure raw material is available for our medicine manufacturers to produce these medicines locally and lower the price of life-saving drugs. 

Presently, we repackage medicines and sell them, and we are not making them on our own, he added.

The writer is a senior correspondent at The Friday Times with a focus on politics, economy and militancy. He also hosts the Hassan Naqvi Show on Naya Daur.