The federal government has taken away the powers of pharmaceutical companies to increase the prices of drugs on their own and did not pay any heed to the pharmaceutical companies or cabinet members.
The government has also abolished all sections of the Drug Pricing Policy which clearly negates the Drugs Act 1976.
According to the available details, Prime Minister Imran Khan was concerned over the drug prices that skyrocketed in the last 10 months, and due to this, the premier had asked for reviewing the Drug Pricing Policy.
Previously, under Para 7 of the existing Drugs Pricing Policy, pharmaceutical companies had the power to increase the prices of the drugs based on the consumer price index without getting any approval from the ministry. They only had to inform the health ministry 30 days before their decision.
Before this policy, it was compulsory for the companies to get approval from the ministry before notifying an increase in drug prices.
During the meeting of the federal cabinet on July 7, two cabinet members – Adviser to PM on Commerce, Textile and Investment Abdul Razak Dawood and Special Assistant to PM on Health Dr. Zafar Mirza advocated for the pharmaceutical companies and said that the powers for increasing the prices of the drugs should stay with them but Secretary Health Aamer Ashraf Khawaja opposed the cabinet members and endorsed the abolishment of the powers vested with the pharmaceutical companies to increase the prices, saying that the powers to increase prices of drugs should remain with the DRAP (Drug Regulatory Authority of Pakistan) and the Ministry of Health.
The secretary also pleaded that the notification with regards to an increase in prices should be issued by the government.
On behalf of the Ministry of Health, a summary was moved seeking omission of Para-7 of Drugs Pricing Policy 2018, but SAPM Dr. Zafar Mirza had managed to get the summary dropped from the agenda of the federal cabinet meeting on June 24.
Prime Minister Imran Khan who is also Minister-in-charge of National Health Services, Regulations and Coordination (NHSR&C) on July 2, 2020, summoned an exclusive meeting with regards to fixing the prices of the drugs.
The Ministry of Health had declared the powers of pharmaceutical companies to increase the prices as mentioned in the Para 7 of Drugs pricing Policy as against the section 12 of Drugs Act 1976 saying that the Ministry of Health has the legal right to issue the notification for any raise in the prices of the drugs.
Dr. Zafar Mirza and Adviser to Prime Minister on Commerce and Investment Abdul Razak Dawood opposed the Health Ministry’s summary arguing that with the removal of the powers to increase prices, pharmaceutical companies will be left on the mercy of bureaucracy in the ministry.