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Prices of several medicines have increased following rupee depreciation, increase in utility and labour costs, an anecdotal survey conducted by Business Recorder revealed here on Monday.

Dealers at drug wholesale markets told this correspondent that prices of various drugs witnessed an increase due to (i) Pakistani rupee witnessing massive depreciation against the US dollar impacting on the price of imported medicines not produced in the country (for example cancer/AIDS medication) as well as due to the imported raw material used in domestic production. Additionally, there was a significant increase in utility tariffs and labour cost.

Traders said that most of cancer drugs are imported and over the past one year their prices witnessed at least 30-40 percent increase due to rupee depreciation.

Following the regular depreciation of Pakistani currency, the Drug Regulatory Authority of Pakistan (DRAP) in January 2019 allowed pharmaceutical companies to increase medicine prices in the range of 9 to 15 percent. In defiance of DRAP's approval, prices of various drugs have witnessed an increase in the range of 15 percent to 300 percent. The survey observed price of Duphaston, used for the treatment of hormones, increased from Rs 540 to Rs 828 per pack; price of blood pressure medicine tablet Concor 2.5 mg increased from Rs 62.35 to Rs 125.35 per pack; price of Triforge tablet, used for treatment of heart disease, increased from Rs 186 to Rs 586 per pack; Neurobion tablet price increased from Rs 300 to Rs 525 per pack; capsule Risek 40 mg from Rs 248 to Rs 334 per pack; and price of tablet Getryl 4mg increased from Rs 360 to Rs 430 per pack. Price of tab Augmentin 625 mg went up from Rs 132 to Rs 175 per pack; Lowplat tablet from Rs 130 to Rs 174 per pack; Pulmonol from Rs 50 to Rs 80 per syrup; Mosegor from Rs 40 to Rs 63 per syrup; tablet Sangobion from Rs 99 to Rs 125 per pack; and tablet Rovista 10mg from Rs 180 to Rs 202 per 10 tablets pack.

Traders told Business Recorder that following the government of Pakistan's decision on August 9, 2019 to completely ban Indian origin imports, a serious drug shortage is looming as Pakistani pharmaceutical industry was importing up to 65 percent of raw material from India. They said if the government does not take corrective measures it will have serious negative implications on health sector. The government is regularly increasing the price of power, gas and petrol on the plea that it has to recover the cost, ignoring the fact that increase in their price has direct and indirect implications on the price of everything else, a trader told this correspondent.

According to pharmaceutical industry sources, over the past one year around 125 new medicines related to cancer, heart diseases and other serious ailments have been introduced worldwide but the Pakistani public cannot avail of these medical advances as the government is not giving necessary licenses for their import.

Indian pharmaceutical industry was three times larger than Pakistan some 20 years ago and is now worth $36 billion. According to an American research organization McKenzie and Company' report 2018, the Indian pharmaceutical industry is destined to reach $50 billion in three years; India is the largest exporter of generic drugs in the world with exports exceeding $19 billion last year. In marked contrast Pakistan's pharmaceutical industry stands at $3 billion and is declining. The country's medicine exports are stagnant at less than $200 million and last year witnessed a decline.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2019

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