ISLAMABAD-Strongly criticising the Ministry of Health for exorbitant prices of medicines, the Senate Standing Committee on Health has termed the price hike failure of the Drug Regulatory Authority of Pakistan [DRAP].

The Senate Committee on National Health Services (NHS) met in the chair of Senator Mian Muhammad Ateeq Sheikh on Friday.

Discussing the issue of price hike of medicines in the country, the legislators criticised the government and federal minister for health for unauthorised price hike made by the pharmaceutical companies.

The Senate body also expressed its displeasure on absence of the federal minister in the meeting to explain the ministry’s position on the public issue. “Companies increased the prices in connivance with DRAP,” remarked chairman committee.

He said the department should be renamed and called ‘Drug Pricing Increase Department’, as it has failed to regulate the prices and providing relief to the public.

The Chairman said that a medicine has been manufactured at the cost of Rs25 is sold to customer at the rate of Rs590.

He said a factory manufacturing one million medicine impulses for Rs36 is selling it for Rs588 and takes all transportation charges from the customer also.

The Chairman committee also said that the DRAP has fixed the minimum price up to the level where companies can increase the price at their own.

He said that the government increased the prices earlier calculating the formula with increase of dollar price.

He said that 09 to 15 per cent increase was approved by government but more Rs10 on each medicine was charged on the name of manufacturing cost. 

He said that the Prime Minister, minister for health and secretary health all are being kept in dark by the medicine price regulating authority.

The legislators added that public is suffering and federal minister is not taking the matter serious.

“The ministry misguided the Prime Minister also,” said chairman committee Ateeq Sheikh.

He also said that the minister took four hours’ briefing on recent price hike of medicines but didn’t bother to brief the Senate committee. 

Senator Ayesha Raza Farooq remarked that there is complexity in determining the prices of medicines.

She said that the prices are calculated with the increased rate of dollar. “Public must be given relief,” she said. Secretary NHS Zahid Saeed while responding to the legislators said that a sub-committee formation has been recommended to review the Drug Pricing Policy introduced in 2018.

He said that 9 to 15 per cent increase in price was approved previous years as around 900 applications were filed by pharmaceutical companies as they were facing difficulties in manufacturing because of increased price of raw material.

He said that later when the case was taken to Supreme Court, it gave 10 weeks time to fix the prices.

Secretary NHS said that price of around 50 per cent medicines was increased while 50 per cent was decreased also.

He also said that DRAP sets Maximum Retail Price (MRP) for companies for the sale of medicines.

The Senate committee also showed its reservations on the appointment of previous Chief Executive Officer DRAP Sheikh Akhtar Hussain.

Senator Ashok Kumar demanded a comprehensive report of his appointment procedure and decisions taken, as his PhD degree was not authorised by the Higher Education Commission (HEC) and the ministry had to remove him from the post.

The committee also expressed displeasure on absence of President Pakistan Medical and Dental Council (PMDC) and directed him to ensure his presence in next meeting to avoid any legal proceedings.

Federal Minister for Health Aamer Mehmood Kiyani, who reached after the conclusion of meeting, told media in gallery that the ministry has taken notice of exorbitant medicines’ prices.

He said that around one hundred companies have been identified and action is being taken against them.

He said that as per law, 20 per cent fine will be imposed on companies found involved in unauthorised price hike.