Govt will do its best to bring down prices of medicines to facilitate people, Senate told

ISLAMABAD: Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Ali Muhammad Khan on Friday said that an increase of 7% in prices of essential and 10% in non-essential medicines was witnessed, but the government would review the increase to facilitate the people.

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The minister was responding to a calling attention notice in Senate regarding the hike in prices of medicine by the government.

Khan said some market-driven factors caused an increase in the price of medicines. However, “the government would review these prices for the ease of people”.

Prices of 360 medicines were decreased by the incumbent government, but the medicine companies challenged the move at the Sindh High Court, he said.

“The court has quashed most of their petitions and the government would do its best to bring down the prices,” he said.

The minister said that the PML-N government had introduced a policy during its tenure in May 2018 to fix prices of medicines and the incumbent government had no role in the price hike.

Last week, the Drug Regulatory Authority of Pakistan (DRAP) had stated that it had approved a 7% increase in the prices of essential drugs/biologicals and a 10% increase in other medicines.

The government had allowed a 5.14% increase in prices of essential medicines and biologicals whereas it had allowed a 7.3410% increase in prices of other medicines.

‘Pakistan has the highest medicine prices in the entire region’

The comments of the minister came after Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) Senator Sherry Rehman and Jamat-e-Islami (JI) Senator Mushtaq Ahmed lambasted the government over the increase in prices of medicines, especially during the coronavirus health emergency in the country.

“Concessions are being given all over the world due to the coronavirus crisis and in Pakistan, medicine prices have been increased by 200%, ” the PPP senator lashed out.

Noting that provision of health facilities is the responsibility of the state, the PPP stalwart said: “The big pharmaceutical companies are happy with the government’s decision but what about the people? What is this indifference?”

Meanwhile, JI Senator Mushtaq Ahmed called attention to the windfall profits racked by the pharmaceutical companies of the country and said that the people, on the other hand, are receiving no benefits, even in these testing times of coronavirus.

The prices of medicines in Pakistan is the highest in the entire region, he said.

“The price of medicines has gone up by 200% on six different occasions in the past two years,” Ahmed said, stressing that the country should be saved from the drug mafia and the government should slash the prices.

‘CAA hiding facts from committee’

Referring to the hot issue of the “fake” licences of pilots, the PPP leader questioned: “Where is the privileged motion that I had moved against the aviation minister and the Civil Aviation Authority officials?

Responding to Rehman’s concern, PPP Senator Raza Rabbani said that the chairman of the Senate has the power to see whether the privilege motion can be moved or not and the secretary does not have the authority to decide on the privilege motion.

Rabbani said that the members of the Senate Standing Committee on Aviation are of the opinion that the aviation officials responding in the matter “hid the facts regarding the fake licencing of the pilots”.

The minister and secretary made contradictory statements in the committee meeting, Rehman said.

She said that the committee members are “unsatisfied” with all the responses.

“The minister should fire someone [who is responsible for the issue of fake licencing]. If I were a minister, I would have resigned,” she added.

Assuring the senators that the queries regarding the licences of pilots and their suspected qualifications would be thoroughly looked into, aviation minister Ghulam Sarwar said that he is ready to answer all the questions of the committee.

“I will also bring the PIA (Pakistan International Airlines) CEO to answer all the questions of the committee raised in this regard,” he added.

After listening to the aviation minister’s reply, Rehman withdrew her notice of privilege motion.

Senate passes resolution condemning the transfer of Asiya Andrabi to ‘Tihar jail’

Condemning the transfer of occupied Kashmir political prisoner Asiya Andrabi to a solitary confinement ward in Tihar Jail, the Senate passed a resolution expressing solidarity with Andrabi.

Andrabi was arrested along with her two associates in 2018 after India’s National Investigation Agency (NIA) registered a false case against them under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act.

They were taken to Tihar jail where they still remain imprisoned. Andrabi is suffering from life-threatening diseases such as angioedema, urticaria, arthritis, asthma, and bronchospasm.

The resolution, presented by Mushahid Hussain Syed, paid tribute to Andrabi and demanded the immediate release of the political prisoner.

The Senate session was adjourned till 3pm on Monday.

APP.

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