ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court of Pakistan (SCP) on Tuesday noted that the recent hike in drug prices by as much as 15 per cent was inevitable and restrained itself from commenting on the matter.
The court was hearing a case related to the use of substandard stents on the plea of National Interventional Cardiology Board (NICB).
NICB lawyer Ali Raza brought to court’s notice that the government had decided to increase the drug prices by as much as 15 per cent
“The prices of medicines have been jacked-up by 15 per cent this month,” the NICB counsel said.
Justice Ejaz ul Ahsan noted that the hike in drug prices was inevitable due to rupee devaluation.
“Prices cannot stay the same forever; naan used to be of two aanas once, look at its price today”, CJP told Mr Raza.
“We will not comment on this matter”, the CJP remarked.
Where are the locally made stents?: SC
Expressing his disappointment in the failure to produce stents for angioplasty locally, the Chief Justice said that Islamabad’s National University of Science and Technology (NUST) was given millions of rupees to develop a heart stent at a local level which was sent to Germany for testing.
“But to our utter dismay, there are no results so far,” the CJP said.
“Locally produced stent was supposed to be presented in the court today, what happened of it?” CJP Nisar asked Mr Ali Raza, the lawyer of NICB, “you had promised that you would produce a stent in the country”, he added.
‘Treatment beyond the reach of poor’
The Chief Justice noted that the cardiovascular treatment was going beyond the reach of people with lesser means.
“Private hospitals are charging as much as Rs. 400,000 for the stents with Rs. 100,000 as the doctors’ fee”, he said.
“When doctors are asked about the high cost of stents and their fee, they go on a strike” he observed.
“How can an ordinary man bear such high expenses of angioplasty,’ the CJP wondered.
“We want the [cardiac] treatment available to people in Rs. 60,000”, said the Chief Justice.
Mr Raza told the court that he had checked with Dr Kayani and other sources and had found out the prices of stents – save the latest ones – were between Rs. 20,000 to Rs. 60,000.
“This debate of old-generation, new-generation [stents] is rubbish; the patients wouldn’t know stents of what standard are implanted in them”, the CJP said.
Justice Ejaz ul Ahsan remarked that they wouldn’t even know if they were implanted with a stent at all.
“This had started from the Meo Hospital in Lahore. A patient was implanted with a substandard stent. When the hospital was raided, the staff went on a strike”, the CJP said.
Provincial healthcare commissions non-functional, court told
NICB lawyer apprised the apex court that healthcare commissions were to be established in all the provinces, but so far, only Punjab’s commission was functional.
He told the bench that the prices of the stents could not be decided till the provincial healthcare commissions are functional. “We want healthcare commissions in all the provinces to start working within a month”, he said.
The Chief Justice told Raza that the court had noted his requests.
“We are disposing of the case after the explanation [by Mr Raza]”, he said.