LAHORE - The Drug Regulatory Authority Pakistan is all set to allow pharmaceutical companies to increase drug prices for the second time in less than six months.

As per the recently formulated pricing policy, pharmaceutical companies can increase prices by 15 per cent at the start of new fiscal year.

Experts said it will be the second instance of pharmaceutical companies increasing prices of essential drugs in six months.

“Pharmaceutical companies increased prices of essential medicines at own and later obtained a stay order from the Sindh High Court in January this year. The Court directed DRAP to submit reply within 15 days. Lack of interest on the part of DRAP has caused pharmaceutical companies to continue fleecing the poor patients till today”, said Noor Muhammad Mehar, a pharmacist having expertise in drug laws.

“Instead of pursuing the case in SHC or approaching the Apex Court for getting the stay order vacated, DRAP is allowing pharmaceutical companies to further increase the prices in July this year.

“DRAP has recently formulated drug pricing policy. This policy allows pharmaceutical companies to increase drug prices in July. Unfortunately, poor patients are the ultimate sufferers of nexus of DRAP officials and pharmaceutical companies,” he added.

“First companies increased prices in January 2014 and later in 2016. As such accumulative affect of increase in drug prices will be from 100-300 per cent,” said Noor Mehar who has the experience of working with the Federal Drug Agency US and a number of multinational companies.

Referring to the hue and cry of pharmaceutical companies regarding considerable increase in the input cost, he said that it was aimed at preparing ground for increasing prices in the name of ‘hardship cases’.

The advertisement in newspapers and TV channels was also misleading, according to the pharmacist.

“The campaign is aimed at giving impression that pharmaceutical companies are not happy with DRAP and increase is insufficient. But the situation is otherwise as the men owned by pharmaceutical companies are holding key posts in DRAP to safeguard their interests,” Mehar held. “I have documented proof that DRAP CEO Dr Aslam Afghani is still partner of one of the companies which increased prices,” he maintained.

“Mr Afghani’s appointment as CEO of DRAP is illegal under section 18 of DRAP Act 2012,” Noor Mehar claimed. He said that the DRAP Act had categorically barred appointment of a pharmaceutical company’s official or partner in the top management of the authority.

According to him, pharmaceutical companies could decide percentage at own while increasing prices as DRAP lacked data. “DRAP has no record of prices of drugs. There are incidents of the government asking companies to give details of prices of drugs. As such there is no base price for any of the drug.”

Referring to the solution of prevailing chaos, Mr Mehar said that DRAP should prepare list of all drugs with prices and display the same on website. “It will enable all stakeholders to check price of any drug online,” he believed.

“The government should give due representation to technocrats in the committee having powers to review cases for increase in prices. The other stakeholders should have due representation but inclusion of technocrats is necessary to safeguard rights of the poor patients,” he added.