Govt slacks on price control of 91pc drugsSajia Afrin
The list of essential drugs has not been updated since 1994 while the government do not control prices of 91 per cent of the drugs that are not on the list in breach of law.
According to health and drug experts, more than 1,300 generic drugs, including combination drugs, are being manufactured in the country, while the government controls the prices of only 117 of them, which are on the list of commonly used drugs.
About 50 drugs of the 117, however, are not being used in the country now, said Directorate General of Drug Administration director Salim Barami.
Section 11 of the Drug Control Ordinance 1982 stipulates, that ‘the government may, by notification in the official gazette, fix the maximum price at which any medicine may be sold’ and ‘any pharmaceutical raw material may be imported or sold’.
Salim Barami said that the drug administration was unable to control the prices of all drugs as a notification issued by the health ministry on February 26, 1994 empowered it to control the prices of commonly used drugs only.
The government’s action in controlling the drug price is a clear violation of the law and the notification is illegal, as no notification or rules can overrule any law, said former Bangladesh Medical Association president Rashid-e-Mahbub, Dhaka University pharmaceutical technology department dean ABM Faroque and BRAC University school of law director Shahdeen Malik, also a Supreme Court lawyer.
The government do not even control the prices of the essential drugs, although list of essential drugs in Bangladesh include only 209 drugs, while the World Health Organisation’s list includes 348, said a pharmacology professor at Bangabndhu Sheikh Mujib Medial University.
The drug administration now controls the prices of 117 drugs, which are on the list of commonly used drugs published by the government along with the February 26, 1994 circular, Salim Barami said.
Although the government has initiated a move to update the lists of essential drugs and commonly used drugs, the experts have questioned its sincerity, as it is yet to finalise the lists the submitted by a committee more than four months ago.
‘We have received the draft drug policy that includes the lists of essential and commonly used drugs and the finalisation of the policy will take time as we have to go through the documents,’ said health secretary Muhammad Humayun Kabir.
According to sources in the health ministry, the committee has recommended 304-308 drugs for the updated list of essential drugs.
The government, however, will not be ‘able’ to fix the prices of all the essential drugs, said the health minister AFM Ruhal Haque.
‘We will negotiate with the drug manufacturers to fix the prices of the maximum drugs proposed on the list,’ he said.
The health experts feared that Bangladesh Association of Pharmaceutical Industries, the association of the drug manufacturers, would create huge pressure on the government not to fix the prices of maximum number of drugs even from the list of essential drugs.
‘The success of the negotiation will, however, depend on whether the government will opt to create election funds from drug companies or to secure vote by ensuring drugs for people at affordable prices through price control,’ one of the experts said.
The government is legally bound to control prices of all drugs and it cannot ignore the legal duty in the name of essential drugs or commonly used drugs, the experts said.
Most of the drug companies are also avoiding fixation of prices of a number of the commonly used drugs by preparing a combination drug with an active ingredient of other drugs, price of which are not controlled, they said.
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