ISLAMABAD-The ‘under pressure’ Ministry of National Health Services on Friday announced to withdraw the 9 per cent increase in prices of medicines, which was made in January this year.

The government was facing severe criticism for the recent 9 per cent increase in price of medicines, though some companies on their own hiked the prices of medicines up to 500 per cent.

Minister of State for National Health Services (NHS) Dr Zafar Mirza in the media briefing held here announced that the government will withdraw the 09 per cent increase made in medicines’ prices in January.

The minister also said that the prices of 464 medicines increased in December last year will be also brought down to the level of 75 per cent.

He said that the prices of 464 medicines were increased between the ranges of 100 per cent to 500 per cent. He said that prices of 39 medicines were increased to 100 per cent illegally.

Going hard on the pharmaceutical industry, the minister gave May 20 as deadline to reduce the prices voluntarily otherwise the ministry will file cases in drug courts following the Drug Act 2012.

The minister also said that the pharmaceutical industry earned limitless profit due to illegal price hike of medicines and vowed to recover the entire amount and would be spent on public welfare.

“The amount is so big that it cannot be quoted,” the minister said.

He also said that the government will provide relief of Rs07 billion to public by withdrawing 09 per cent increase and lowering the prices of 464 medicines to 75 per cent.

Dr Zafar Mirza also said that ministry will also soon issue SRO on the announced decisions and appreciate the voluntarily reduction of prices by the industry. He said that ministry on December 2018 through an SRO issued had fixed new prices of 889 medicines in the country. He said that 464 included medicines were later given additional raise as pharmaceutical industries claimed the initial raise was not reasonable.

He said that in 889 medicines, prices of 395 medicines were though recommended to sell on reduces prices but in market their prices were not decreased by the companies and were sold on high prices.

The minister said resultantly the prices of medicines were increased to 100 per cent to 500 per cent. He said the ministry will bring the prices of the 464 medicines down to 75 per cent to give benefit of Rs1 billion to consumers.

Dr Zafar Mirza also said that later on in January 2019, the same 889 medicines got 09 per cent increase in prices which resulted in exorbitant prices of 625 medicines.

He said that the government has talked to pharmaceutical industry on this overall price hike and decided to withdraw the 09 per cent increase in the medicines prices.

He said the withdrawal of 09 per cent increase will give Rs6 billion annual saving to consumers as per a conservative estimate.

“It is a Ramazan gift for citizens,” he said.

Regarding the enforcement plan of the announcements, the minister said that companies are being given deadline of 20 May to voluntarily reduce the prices, otherwise the ministry through Drugs Regulatory Authority of Pakistan (DRAP) will contact companies on product by product basis.

He also accepted that DRAP has weak enforcement system but the ministry will be the petitioner in the drug courts against companies if they fail to comply the government orders.

He said that the recovery made during this procedure will be given in the fatal disease fund of Bait-ul-Mal.

The minister also added that ministry will also take the pharmaceutical industry into confidence for the provision of essential medicines in the market to avoid shortage in country.

He also announced establishing a hotline in the ministry which will be used to inform about illegal medicine price hike in the country.

Minister Dr Zafar Mirza also said that there is a trust deficit between the pharmaceutical industry and government which need to be covered.

The minister said that the prices of medicines remained freeze from 2302 to 2013 but the industry was growing despite non-increase in the prices of the medicines.

He also added that the companies also went in excessive litigation and Supreme Court (SC) had directed to set new medicines prices.

Dr Mirza also said that around 65 per cent public in the country is dependent on its income for medical care and nearly 60 per cent of its income is spent on availing health facilities.

He said that the health system needs revolutionary changes in its regulation procedures. He also added that government has planned to strengthen the primary healthcare system in the country.