The availability and the pricing of medical have become an issue in Pakistan. Despite the presence of the Drug Regulatory Authority of Pakistan (Drap), these two remain the keys issues being faced by the population. DRAP recently admitted that prices of drugs were increased beyond the regulatory body’s own policy during a meeting of a National Assembly’s subcommittee on national health services (NHS) at Parliament House. With rising inflation and the average consumer’s buying power decreasing, the rise in the prices of medicines is quite alarming. Medicines are already short in the market due to the trade ban in India and despite the government’s decision to lift the ban on trading medicines, there is a reluctance from the Indian side causing the prices of the medicines in the local market to go high.

DRAP officials, however, claim that the matter was managed soon after its revelation. This April, then National Health Services (NHS) minister Aamer Mehmood Kiani was removed and Dr Zafar Mirza was appointed a special assistant to the Prime Minister on health. Rumours claim that Aamer Mehmood Kiani was responsible for the increase in prices but no one in the regulatory body has confirmed the news. While the regulatory body seems to have managed the prices of drugs within Pakistan, there is no guarantee that similar action would not be taken again because data regarding medicines within the country is absent. In the parliamentary session, DRAP officials gave a briefing on the registration of medicines, how to obtain licenses for new medicines and the structure and financing of the authority. They also said that the laboratory testing and post-marketing surveillance of medicines are Drap’s responsibility. However, as pointed out correctly by the MNA Ramesh Lal from the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), these promises have been made before when the government started. If no action has been taken up till now and the only stories coming out of the regulatory body are those of price increase, then there needs to be greater scrutiny of the actions of DRAP and why is the body unable to materialise the plans it promises the parliamentary committee.

The regulatory body should not be working on ad hoc measures, it should rather have a concrete plan on how to regulate medicines within the country and create a feedback loop, so any mismanagement can be reported as soon as possible and the average consumer does to have to bear a loss.