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ISLAMABAD: The federal cabinet has decided to deregulate non-essential drugs since their pricing had been warped by DRAP, both because of the pricing mechanism adopted by the Authority and rent- seeking by its employees, well informed sources told Business Recorder.

Hike in 146 drug prices allowed

Sharing the details, sources said, on February 6, 2023, Ministry of National Health Services, Regulation and Coordination (NHRS&C) apprised the Cabinet that prices (Minimum Retail Price) of 262 drugs under Hardship-Category, as recommended by the Drug Pricing Committee (DPC) in its 56th & 57th meetings, were considered by the Cabinet in its meeting held on February 1, 2024, wherein the Cabinet took the following decisions: (i) approved increase in MRPs of 146 essential drugs with their generic name as per criteria of WHO; (ii) Ministry of NHSR&C pledged to carefully examine the case for the deregulation of the pharmaceutical sector at the earliest and submit its proposal to the Cabinet for consideration; (iii) in the meanwhile, the Ministry of NHSR&C would submit its proposals to amend the Drug Pricing Policy, 2018 to improve fairness and transparency in the determination of drug prices, to make it citizen-centric, and to devolve decision making on drug pricing to the level of the Ministry or the Drug Pricing Committee.

The Ministry of NHSR&C further noted that during deliberations in the above meetings, it was noted that fixing MRPs of all drugs is not in line with global and regional practices, for instance India fixes prices of essential medicines, Bangladesh fixes prices of 117 drugs and Sri Lanka fixes prices of 60 drugs.

Therefore, it will be appropriate to deregulate MRPs of drugs not included in the National Essential Medicines List and let the market forces play their role on the basis of demand and supply. This will create a balance between the interests of the common person by increased access to lower priced pharmaceutical products and legitimate profit incentives for the pharmaceutical industry.

Studies have shown that in some developed economies, prices of drugs were reduced after de-regulation due to elimination of monopolies and in some countries de-regulation resulted in an increase in prices due to strong resistance by monopolies.

Therefore, it is apprehended that MRPs of these de-regulated drugs may increase in short term, however, MRPs will stabilise in medium term and may reduce in long term due to increased competition. In view of the considerations, the Ministry of NHSR&C submitted the following proposals for approval of the Cabinet: (i) statutory notification, in exercise of powers under section 36 of the Drugs Act, 1976 to exempt all drugs and biologicals not included in the national list of Essential Medicines from operation of section 12 of the Drugs Act, 1976; (ii) executive notification to amend Drug Pricing Policy-2018; (iii) Statutory notification to amend S.R.O.707(1)/2013 of August 5, 2013 to place recommendations of DPC before the Policy Board of DRAP prior to soliciting approval under section 12 of the Drugs Act, 1976; (iv) Ministry of Law be advised to examine provisions of DRAP Act, 2012 to regulate prices of therapeutic goods and propose amendments for removal of inconsistencies, if any with Drug Act, 1976; (v) Pakistan Medical and Dental Council to prohibit prescription of all vitamins, multi-vitamins, minerals and health & over-the-counter products by physicians. Healthcare commissions to enforce the regulations and all established pharmacies must have a qualified pharmacist at the counter; (vi) DRAP to register or enlist vitamins, multi-vitamins, minerals and health & over-the-counter products according to best global practices; and (vii) DRAP to coordinate with provincial health authorities to make regulations to prohibit dispensing of vitamins, multi-vitamins, minerals and health & over-the-counter products and allow sale of these products over self-service shelves along with products of personal/healthcare on retail outlets.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2024

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