Patients in peril as drug prices shoot up

Costlier dollar blamed
The prices of life-saving drugs are increasing seemingly due to costlier imports of raw materials and the depreciation of the taka vis-à-vis foreign currencies. Poor patients are the worst sufferers of this pricing disorder. Prices for most of the pharmaceutical products are on an upward trajectory, while drug traders blame manufacturing companies for the rise in the retail prices of almost all the drugs.
Pharmacists say the prices of a large number of drugs, most of which are commonly used, have gone up since February 1, without the manufacturers having notified them about a possible price increase. Indications are that some other drugs will soon become pricey.
The 261 pharmaceutical companies operating in the country manufacture drugs under more than 2,200 brands. With a combined annual sales turnover of more than Tk. 10,000 crore, they meet 97 per cent of local demand and import pharmaceutical products to more than 65 countries.
“The maximum retail prices of only 117 listed generic drugs are set by the government and the prices of the rest are fixed by the manufacturing companies, although the price fixing committee of the DGDA always monitor the prices,” Salim Bharami, deputy director of the Directorate General of Drug Administration (DGDA), told The Independent on Sunday.
Sources in the drug administration said the price fixation committee always pitched for a rational increase in the prices.
“We always ask the companies to fix the prices of life-saving drugs rationally,” Bharami said.
Drug manufacturers claim they have to revise the prices of essential drugs, from time to time, with the approval of the DGDA and the ministry concerned, because of the increase in raw material prices, depreciation of the taka and a hike in VAT and tax rates.
Drug companies willing to increase prices need to apply to the DGDA; the committee headed by the health secretary approves it, if the increase is found to be logical, the high official said.
The committee of the DGDA and representatives of the consumers association, Bangladesh Medical Association and Bangladesh Association of Pharmaceutical Industries (BAPI) last met in the end of August 2011, to approve the price increase.
The increased prices of 30 items were approved at that meeting, Bharami added.
The prices of anti-ulcer medicines, such as Pentonix, have increased from Tk. 30 to 40, Antacid Plus tablets have gone up from Tk. 12 to 15 a strip, Antacid Plus syrup is up from Tk. 65 to 75 a bottle, anti-histamine medicines, including Tofen, have risen from Tk. 15 to 20 a strip, and Tofen syrup is costlier by Tk. 5, at Tk. 45.
The price of cardiac medicines, including Parinox 40mg, have gone up from Tk. 340-350 a strip, Parinox 60mg from Tk. 525-600 and Amdocal Plus 25mg prices have risen from Tk. 45 to Tk. 55.50, pharmacists at different drug stores in Shahbagh said.
The prices of hormonal medicines including Allygest have gone up from Tk. 185 to Tk. 210, Zoleta tablet, from Tk. 125 to Tk. 175, and Testanon injection, from Tk. 140 to Tk. 147.
The prices of anti-depression medicines including Frenxit have gone up from Tk. 525 to Tk. 600 a box and Frenia 4mg from Tk. 40 to Tk. 55.
Traxyl injection is costlier by Tk. 3 at Tk. 35, while Anarxyl injection and tablet have gone up from Tk. 53 to Tk. 58, and from Tk. 190 to Tk. 212, respectively.
Shohely Akhter, mother of an ailing son, said, “My monthly expenditure on drugs was Tk. 2,000 just two months ago, but, now, I need to spend at least Tk. 4,000 a month on medicines for my son, who is suffering from a haematological complication.”
Solaiman Mia, a salesman at Lazz Pharma, told The Independent, “The maximum retail prices of drugs were hiked about two months back, but the prices of most of drugs increased after the first week of February.”
Earlier, Lazz Pharma sold Avolac syrup at Tk. 100 and the medicine now sells at Tk. 120, the salesman said, adding, other companies have also raised the price of the same generic drug.
He said Square Pharmaceuticals had increased the prices of their 250 products, ranging between Tk. 30 and Tk. 50 per box.
Leaders of BAPI claim drug prices are always increased with due approval of the DGDA and the number of drugs that have witnessed a price increase is rather small.
They also say the cost of raw materials has gone up 25 per cent due to the depreciation of the taka. Earlier, they bought a dollar at Tk. 70 and now they shell out Tk. 83 for the greenback.
“That is why we have been forced to increase the prices of some of our products,” a BAPI member says.
The government should control the price of every pharmaceutical product in the interests of patients. But it does not do so due to a lack of either knowledge, or skill, or adequate manpower.
Government officials might also be involved in corruption, said Prof. ABM Faruque, head of pharmacology department of University of Dhaka.
Sadequr Rahman, president of Bangladesh Druggists and Chemists Association, told The Independent on Sunday, “All the pharmaceutical manufacturing companies have increased the prices of most of their products in the last few months.”
Quazi Faruque, president of Consumers Association of Bangladesh, said that most of companies had increased the prices of their drugs and a few of them increased the prices by almost 50 per cent. Consumers are helpless, he added.

-With The Independent input

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