In the wake of unprecedented flood situation in Punjab, at least 40 life-saving drugs, including those of fever have fall short, while drug prices have also shot up by over 21%. Due to escalating rate of dollar, an increase in the prices of medicines was inevitable that has put more burdens on the household budget of a common man.
The DRAP has already tried to control prices in the past and deferred the increase on a number of occasions. However, the current expenditure of manufacturing and packing medicines as well as import cost had made a significant impact. However, there is a need to keep a check on prices of medicines and to ensure their availability. It is necessary that the prices are not increased against the prescribed rates because certain multinational pharmaceutical companies sell their medicines on much higher rates than DRAP’s assigned rates. Bureaucratic hurdles are also the cause of price fluctuations at certain times in the past when DRAP directions and CPI policy mismatched. Eventually, government’s disapproval at times caused more complications.
Pharmaceutical companies argue that freezing the prices for the last many years caused profit losses in light of inflationary steps taken over a specific period of time. It is no doubt that losses have indeed occurred but the medicines are meant for the treatment of masses that are living on or below the poverty line. Several curable and incurable diseases are widespread in a developing country such as Pakistan where budget for health hardly crosses the threshold of three percent. Hence, the lack of attention leads not only to soaring prices and inadequate health facilities but also brain drain of qualified pharmacists and doctors who settle down in developed countries such as Germany, the United Kingdom and Australia.
What’s more alarming to note is that the crisis of medicines’ shortage will create difficulties for the common man. The Pharmaceutical industry’s greed is already killing citizens and that need to be controlled on a war footing. Citizens pay high prices as compared to neighbouring India for prescribed drugs. This will end up creating a health care crisis in which many families will not be able to afford to get the medicine they need. People may be dying because they may not afford the outrageous cost of their medications. The devaluation impact of the Pakistani currency should not be allowed to be converted into an opportunity to fleece the poor and helpless people. Let’s have a debate and put facts on table. The price hike must be controlled to an extent that the masses aren’t affected. Subsidised measures must also be taken by the government, perhaps reserving a quota in the health budget on both federal and provincial levels across the country for assuring quality service can be a good option.