Pakistan's weak currency and contentious pricing strategy result in a shortage of life-saving medications.
KARACHI: According to a chemist quoted in The News on Monday, Pakistan is experiencing a severe scarcity of the majority of imported and essential medications due to the Drug Regularity Authority of Pakistan’s (DRAP) pricing policy and the weakening currency.
According to Abdul Mannan, a chemist and importer of biological products, “due to the extreme depreciation of Pakistani currency against the dollar and controversial drug pricing policy of Drug Regularity Authority of Pakistan (DRAP), their prices have increased manifold and it has become economically unviable for importers to bring them on the existing prices given by the DRAP.”
As a result of vendors stopping their supply owing to dollar-to-rupee difference, both public and private healthcare institutions are experiencing a lack of imported vaccinations, cancer treatments, reproductive medications, and anaesthetic gases.
Heparin, a blood-thinning agent needed following several cardiovascular operations, is now the most significant medicine that is not being given to healthcare institutions.
They continued by saying that the DRAP’s dollar-to-rupee disparity and pricing policy also prevent health facilities from receiving some essential anaesthetic gases, such as isoflurane and sevoflurane, as well as monoclonal antibodies for the treatment of various cancers, as well as fertility products like human chronic gonadotropin (HCG) and human menopausal gonadotropin (HMG).
Although the majority of oral medications, such as syrups, tablets, and injections, are made in Pakistan, the majority of biological products, such as all vaccines, anti-cancer medications and therapies, hormones, and fertility medications, as well as other products, are imported from countries such as India, China, Russia, Europe, the United States, and Turkey.
Mannan urged the government to review the Drug Pricing Policy 2018 of DRAP right away, arguing that it had previously permitted the import of medicines when the dollar was available for Rs190, but that it has since increased to Rs285 while the dollar is currently trading for Rs300 on the local market.
“After DRAP set a three-year restriction to apply under the hardship category under the Drug Price Policy 2018, the issue has gotten worse.
This means that the importer may only request a price adjustment once every three years if a medicine falls into the hardship category as a result of a higher import price, the official explained.
He continued by saying that the cost of imported medical supplies had become meaningless and unprofitable for the importers owing to the ongoing devaluation of the rupee.
According to him, this has led to “an severe scarcity of imported biological goods, anaesthetic gases, reproductive medications, immunosuppressants used in organ transplants, and others.
He said, “Suppressants utilised in organ transplants and others.”
The DRAP authorities have been urged to review the three-year limit on hardship cases in accordance with the updated 2018 pricing policy, according to the representative group for drug importers Pakistan Chemists and Druggists Association (PCDA), who claimed they were unable to supply the imported medications due to currency fluctuations.
Asim Jamil, general secretary of the PCDA, warned that if these problems weren’t fixed right away, especially if the laws governing hardship situations weren’t changed, there would be a severe scarcity of imported medical supplies, which would have detrimental effects on the nation’s health.
The federal secretary of health presided over a meeting of the DRAP policy board on Friday, which also included representatives from the private sector and all four provinces. The DRAP officials said the policy board had prepared some recommendations regarding domestically produced and imported medicines, which would be sent to the federal cabinet for implementation.
“DRAP’s policy board has unanimously made various decisions, including raising drug pricing to reflect hyperinflation. The Ministry of National Health Services is sending these suggestions to the federal cabinet for action, according to a policy board member.