The federal cabinet’s recent decision to increase the cost of 146 life-saving medications is a big, if divisive, step towards solving the long-standing drug pricing problem. Although the action is required to prevent shortages and combat the rising cost of raw materials, it raises questions regarding accessibility for the general customer. A careful balance must be struck between the pharmaceutical industry’s ability to make money and the public’s ability to afford necessary medications. The devaluation of the rupee and changes in global market conditions have resulted in higher production costs for the pharmaceutical industry. As previously noted in these pages, these circumstances have rendered the production of several medications financially untenable, resulting in shortages and driving consumers to either cut their dosages or turn to the illegal market. According to reliable sources within the ministry, the health ministry tried a balanced approach prior to the decision, offering incentives to the business in place of raising the cost burden on consumers. A price increase was unavoidable after multiple rounds of negotiations. It is imperative to acknowledge that this approach might not be the most egalitarian one. Targeted government subsidies for life-saving medications must be taken into consideration. This would enable pharmaceutical companies to pay for their increasing manufacturing costs while guaranteeing that essential medications stay affordable, especially for low-income groups. The government should also look into limiting the list of medications that are subject to price increases, eliminating those that are necessary to treat life-threatening illnesses or for which there are no suitable substitutes. Subsidies in addition to this targeted increase may lessen the impact on customers. In the meanwhile, the government needs to support the conditions that will allow the medical industry to expand. As the ministry aims to achieve, fiscal incentives, expedited clearance of imported raw materials, and regulatory simplification can all support sector growth while controlling costs. Novel approaches are required, such as levying taxes on pharmaceutical companies’ turnover to pay for the purchase of medications for public hospitals, ensuring that the most disadvantaged people have access to essential medications at no cost to them. A more nuanced approach must be taken, even though the price increase is an appropriate response to the current economic situation. A healthcare system where everyone, regardless of financial situation, has affordable and easy access to life-saving medications should be the ultimate goal.
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