|Ministry rejects report on drug prices|
20 July 2012
ISLAMABAD: While clarifying a news story captioned “Company makes millions as regulators drag feet” filed by Khalid Mustafa in daily “The News” dated July 19, 2012 the spokesperson of Ministry of National Regulations and Services has said that The Ministry of National Regulations and Services as well as the Drugs Regulatory Authority took serious note of the subject item which is malicious, misconceived and mala fide. The matter as reported is actuated by malice.
The Spokesperson has said that as a matter of fact, the prices of 92 drugs were increased by the companies at their own without the approval of the Government much before Dr. Firdous Ashiq Awan assumed the charge of Minister NRS. The rise in price resulted before the constitution of the Drug Regulatory setup of the Federal Government which came in place since 29-05-2012. She embarked upon organizing the Policy Board, the Central Licensing Board, Registration Board and the Pricing Committee. As soon as the setup was completed, the government and particularly the Drug Regulatory Authority initiated its process and made operative its regulatory mechanism. The notices were issued to all the companies/firms responsible for rise in prices of drugs. The Drug Pricing Committee is a broad based forum which is chaired by the Federal Secretary NRS and the Health Secretaries of Provincial Governments, Consumer Rights Commission of Pakistan (CRCP), Pakistan Pharmaceutical manufacturers Association and Pharma Bureau etc.
The spokesperson has also said that the Drug regulatory mechanism was in place from 11-06-2012. The notices were served to all the companies/firms who had increased the prices of drugs without the prior approval of the Government. First meeting of the Committee was convened on 19-06-2012 in which all the firms/companies responsible for the price rise were called upon to explain their position. The Meeting was held on 19-06-2012 when the legal advisors of some of the firms/companies appeared before the committee, requested some time due to engagement of higher management of their companies/firms in the closing of accounts in the month of June. However, the pricing committee did not agree for adjournment for such a long period and called them on 26-06-2012 and heard all the parties concerned. The decision was made and was communicated to the companies/firms in due course on 13-07-2012. The committee decided after detailed deliberations to reduce the prices at the level of the prices already fixed and disallowed any increase.
The Spokesperson further clarified that no delay was ever made as soon as the statutory setup for drug regulations was in place. Prompt action was taken and the legal/statutory actions were initiated and the prices were got reduced to the level already fixed. The alleged inaction attributed to the regulatory mechanism was not there.
The Spokesperson further said that the reporting as to the Federal Minister’s interference in the working of the committee is incorrect and considered as mala fide, misconceived, unfounded and against facts. The Drug Regulatory mechanism put in place after the 18th amendment of the Constitution is working in a transparent manner and strictly in accordance with law. The Minister never interfered in any decision making. The claim that a Karachi based company namely ‘Searle’ was benefited by the working g of the Drug regulatory mechanism is also incorrect and malicious. Reporting as made through the said news item is viewed with grave concern as the same is the result of some malicious move by some interested individuals aimed at maligning the Federal Minister, the Government and the Democratic system. It is desired that the reporting shall be made as to the sensitive issues like the one through the said item shall be made in future after due verification of facts and not actuated by any malice.
The Regulatory mechanism including the functioning of the Drug Regulatory Authority of Pakistan and its committees is transparent and not influenced by anybody either from the Government or from private sector, the spokesperson concluded.
Khalid Mustafa Adds: The clarification issued by the Ministry of National Regulations and Services though is very lengthy, but caries no arguments. The News in its report questioned the presence of Federal Minister Dr Firdous Ashiq Awan in the all meetings of DRA and if that her presence is justified and up to the mark, then in the minutes her presence and influence on the decisions taken in the meeting get erased. It is quite obvious that if her presence in the meeting is written in the meeting then legally all the decisions of DRA meeting would be declared null and void.
In the story the minister’s whole version is included in which she said that she attends the meeting as member of the federal government knowing the fact that every meeting of DRA is chaired either by secretary of the ministry or additional or Senior Joint Secretary who represent the federal government. The minister is however not the member of DRA but attends all the meetings of the regulator and if she deems she is right, then why her presence is not shown in the minutes.
In the story, The News also contacted Mr Imtiaz Inayat Elahi, secretary of Ministry of National Regulations & Services, who said that he would look into the matter and if she attends every meeting she would be barred, promising to go by the book.
The correspondent quoted DG Health Dr Kazi Abdul Saboor, who is also looking after the affairs of DRA, who confirmed that the minister attends every meeting of DRA. When asked if this shows she protects the interests of some of the vested interests of the pharmaceutical companies, Dr. Saboor opted to keep mum and kept smiling indicating that something is wrong.
In the story Mr Saboor also acknowledged that in the minutes of the meeting, the minister’s input (influence) on the decisions taken in the meeting of DRA is not recorded.
The most interesting thing in the clarification is that there is no mention about the quotes The News has taken from DG Health and Secretary of Regulations and Services. This shows that The News story is quite right. As far as the Karachi based company’s swindling by increasing ORS and other product without the any permission of DRA is concerned, this is the utter failure or connivance of the functionaries of the ministry who kept watching not only the Karachi-based company, but also 10 other companies fleecing the poor. In the clarification, the ministry acknowledged that some of the companies had increased 92 medicines’ prices, and it (the ministry) reduced the price of 92 products on July 17, 2012 which clearly shows that DRA has taken a lot of time to take action. The DRA has just reduced the price after the companies had minted billions of rupees and did not penalize them for their swindling, rather it just reduced the prices.
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