ISLAMABAD: After imposing a cap for 15 years, the Ministry of National Health Services (NHS) has issued a notification to increase the prices of 10,000 medicines available in the market.
NHS Secretary Ayub Sheikh said the decision was made in March 2015 and that the prices of medicines will remain the same for a year before they are increased after considering the Consumer Price Index (CPI).
“In the past, companies would allege that there is no clear policy regarding increases in prices and some even alleged that prices were increased after getting financial benefits,” he said.
This time, he said, prices have been increased across the board in order to ensure transparency.
“No company can say prices were increased to benefit a specific company,” Mr Sheikh said.
When asked, the NHS secretary said some 70,000 medicines were registered of which only 10,000 were available in the market.
“For example, 220 medicines are registered for [treating]tuberculosis but only three companies produce medicines for TB,” he explained.
NHS ministry has issued a notification to increase the prices of 10,000 medicines
In the past, medicine prices were increased according to a uniform formula and since 2001, price increases were banned due to which a majority of local manufacturers did not get to increase prices, except for a few manufacturers who felt they could not do business without doing so.
Some multinational companies went to the courts time and again and sought stay orders after increasing the prices of the medicines they produce.
In November 2013, the Drug Regulatory Authority of Pakistan (Drap) increased medicine prices by 15pc, but withdrew the notification following the prime minister’s orders.
Some companies also sought a stay order against this and continued to sell medicines at higher rates. Other companies also obtained stay orders in the current year and increased their prices. The NHS ministry has been making efforts for reducing these prices and the matter is also being discussed in a standing committee of parliament.
An NHS official, who requested not to be named, said multinational companies have increased prices across the board due to which those companies which are not in a position to file a case and obtain a stay order will also benefit.
“According to the new policy, the prices of scheduled drugs, which are over 300 molecules and are also called life saving drugs, and non-scheduled drugs will be increased by 50pc and 70pc of the CPI respectively. The prices of threshold drugs, or those which cost less than Rs3 per tablets, will be increased by 100pc of the CPI,” he said.
However, the NHS secretary said the government has accounted the CPI as 2.8pc so that scheduled drugs, which make up 55pc of the market, will have their prices increase by 1.43pc.
“The price of non-scheduled drugs, which consist of 1,000 molecules and cover 45pc of the market, have been increased by 2pc while the prices of threshold drugs have been increased by 2.86pc,” Mr Sheikh said.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has expressed his resentment over the increase in prices of medicines. He has sought a detailed report from the NHS ministry.