Life Saving Drugs: Pakistan is an expensive country

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Pakistan is an expensive country with 22 million people, Pakistan is 5th largest population of the world facing an economic crisis and inflation since long. During present Pakistan Tehreek Insaf (PTI) government era inflation and unemployment rate mount to its peak. Above all, the federal government recently has approved the increase in the price of the 94 lifesaving medicine up to 262 percent. This decision has made the life a common man difficult than ever in the country.

According to Special Assistant to Prime Minister on Health Services Dr. Faisal Sultan,“decision was made to address chronic shortage of lifesaving or some key drugs. As previously large number of lifesaving drugs were disappeared from the market due to unrealistic low prices.”

Young Doctor Association (YDA) representative Dr Shair Aalam who is attached to Polyclinic Hospital of Islamabad as child specialist, claims “it beyond the logic and the reason, how government is linking the lifesaving drugs with their availability in the market. Apparently it seems that mafia in medicine business is stronger than government and government is incapable to take any action against them. The ultimate affectee is a poor person, if any medicine is not obtainable in government hospitals and dispensaries, we use to prescribe these, but patients are not able to buy it due to low purchasing power, situation is worse in case of lifesaving drugs.” “Health sector is being collapsed, doctors are resigning from their services, government is not successfully tackling the situation, and upcoming time would be drastic for the people of Pakistan, health and medicine is basic need of every citizen,” he added.

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At the condition of anonymity, a senior representative in Drug Regulatory Authority of Pakistan (DRAP) told Eat News, “In Pakistan most of the manufactures import the raw material for medicine from the international market, so increase in the dollar price is a major contributing factor in medicine price hike. On the previous, old prices, it was not feasible for the manufacturer to import raw substance and manufacture the medicine, so lifesaving drugs perished from the local market.” It was inevitable to increase the prices of drugs. Frankly speaking it is not increase in price, I will say, “prices are re-fixed”, he added.

Photo: Drug Regulatory Authority of Pakistan – DRAP/Facebook

Pharmacist Noor Mahar told Eat News, statement by Dr Faisal is violation of drug act 1976; it is the crime if a company is failing to provide a certain amount of medicine in the market. The local media should play its role to highlight this critical issue on national and international level. In my personal capacity I took up this issue on different forums, yet not get any positive response.

Naila Noreen, 35 years old house wife says, current sky-high prices of medicine made her life difficult than ever, “ I feel myself in deep water, inflationary pressure is unbearable, we have to chose one thing, either treatment of old previous generation; ‘our elders’ or to feed the generation next; ‘our children’. We cannot take the burden food and health issues simultaneously”, she said.

Tahir Khan, 55, a diabetes patient claim, he is suffering due to costlier drugs. “Every required medicine is not obtainable in government hospitals and dispensaries, if we go to market to purchase medicine; these are beyond our reach due to extravagant cost. Spending an average life here in Pakistan is almost impossible due to inaccessibility and overpriced medicines”, he added.

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Since 2018, the current PTI government is in power, drug prices have been increased up to 8 times. Drug Pricing Committee (DPC) under the Drugs Pricing Policy of 2018, recommended to the federal government to increase the price of non-available or scarce drugs to make sure their accessibility.

As per official notification, medicines that have become expensive, include which used to treat fever, flue, eye, tooth, sore throat, ear, blood infection, postpartum issues, headache, diabetes, malaria, abdominal and stomach pains, heart disease, skin disease; as well as some antibiotics also.

According to SDG 3 (Sustainable Development Goal 3) by the United Nation, it is accentuated that everyone has access to quality treatment at a reasonable price, this demands affordable prices of medicine for the general public. However, still it seems a dream in the case of Pakistan.

In the last couple of months, the price hike is observed in several medicines, making these unattainable for patients. The situation is getting worse for the common people in the country because there is no national health insurance, and above all most of the health-related spending is an out-of-pocket expenditure.

Common masses appealed the government to look into the matter and take notice against medicine mafia; otherwise it would be complex and complicated to spend a reasonable life in the country.

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Mohammad Farhan Niazi is a correspondent for Eat News in Pakistan and is an experienced senior producer with a demonstrated history of working in the media production industry. Skilled in feature and news writing, non-linear editing, radio, multimedia journalism, Online journalism, film production, and sound. Strong media and communication professional graduated from University of Peshawar.

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Eat News is a Taiwanese digital media, analyzes current events and issues through column articles, videos, visual aid, and exclusive interviews.

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