In a decision made during the recent caretaker federal cabinet meeting chaired by interim Prime Minister Anwaarul Haq Kakar in Islamabad, the approval for increased prices of 146 essential life-saving medicines has stirred controversy. As reported by state-run Radio Pakistan, the surge in prices was proposed by the Ministry of National Health, citing escalating costs of raw materials in the global market.
During the meeting, Prime Minister Kakar emphasized the government’s commitment to ensuring the availability of medicines to the general public at reasonable prices. He stated that the government is formulating policies not only to benefit the common man but also to support the pharmaceutical industry.
Shortage of medicines caused hike in prices
Furthermore, Prime Minister Kakar directed efforts to enhance the performance of the Drug Regulatory Authority of Pakistan (Drap) and expedite actions against hoarding and drug smuggling. Regarding the deregulation of drug prices, he instructed the preparation of recommendations for a draft summary to be presented for legislation in the next elected parliament.
Radio Pakistan reported that both the health ministry and Drap informed meeting participants that citizens could file complaints regarding the non-availability of medicines through the authority’s online portal.
The decision to increase medicine prices comes amid a nationwide shortage of life-saving drugs, leading to the influx of smuggled medications into the market. Patients are reportedly forced to pay three to five times higher prices for essential medicines than their actual rates.
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The crisis escalated when caretaker Health Minister Dr. Nadeem Jan and the Pakistan Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Association (PPMA) clashed over the review of prices for 262 drugs categorized as hardship cases. Despite Drap’s approval of proposed prices in November 2022, the matter remained pending as the caretaker health minister deferred the decision to the ‘upcoming government.’ The PPMA expressed concern, deeming the delay potentially hazardous to individuals battling severe diseases and detrimental to the drug industry.