Pakistan Pharmaceutical Manufacturers’ Association (PPMA), on Wednesday, announced to curtail prices of 395 essential medicines to provide due economic relief to masses.The prices of these medicines had been reduced by the Drug Regulatory Authority of Pakistan (DRAP) but not yet implemented by the pharmaceutical industry. PPMA also announced to voluntarily slash prices of as many as 464 medicines by 10 to 15 per cent.“Today we announce to reduce prices of 395 essential medicines from one per cent to 471 per cent as per government’s SRO no. 1610 and within 15 days, these medicines would be available on reduced prices throughout Pakistan”, said PPMA Chairman Zahid Saeed. He was briefing media sources at a local hotel in Karachi.He was flanked by Ayesha Tammy Haq, the representative from multinational pharmaceutical companies in Pakistan. The chairman further added they were forced to lower down the prices with a heavy heart due to pressure from the health minister as well as Commerce Advisor, Abdul Razzaq Dawood. Increases in the cost of production of medicines had made doing business very difficult in Pakistan, he maintained. Several drug manufacturers were also present on the occasion. At the same time, the pharmaceutical industry had voluntarily decided to lower the prices of another 464 medicines by 10-15 per cent and providing it to the people on their original cost of production, he announced.Saeed said medicines with reduced prices were very well known and commonly used for the treatment of communicable as well as non-communicable diseases. Recently, the government of Pakistan had allowed an increase of 15 per cent in the prices of round 45,000 medicines following a suo moto taken by the Supreme Court of Pakistan.However, in some hardship cases, prices of 464 medicines were increased by over 15 per cent because their cost of production had become unbearable for the industry. The production of many of these drugs had been stopped by the pharmaceutical manufacturers, he added.Saeed maintained, “It is very painful and challenging decision for the pharmaceutical industry since hardship cases were decided in November 2018 where rupee was priced 138 against the US dollar. Today it is 143.”He, nevertheless, asserted that continuation of these prices was possible if the dollar did not appreciate; utility prices were maintained, and the government was able to control inflation.The prices of drugs could not be isolated from these factors, he added. PPMA Chairman announced that the decisions were implemented from Wednesday onwards and the work on the replacement of stocks had commenced ensuring availability of the reduced price.He also asserted that the process to recover and replace stocks at distributor/retail shelf level would be 100 per cent complete in the next 15 days since logistics would take time and shortage needed to be avoided.The government was said to have allowed a 15 per cent increase in the prices of locally produced medicines in January to ensure the survival of the pharmaceutical industry, otherwise facing serious economic challenges in producing quality drugs at affordable prices.The increase in prices of medicines had been in conformity with the several directions of the apex judiciary on the issue, he added. Zahid held the view that if the government had not allowed the much-needed relief to the Pakistani medicines’ manufacturers, the public healthcare system would have been in sheer shambles due to unavailability of medicines.“Cost of production of the local Pharma industry had increased manifolds since 2018 due to an unprecedented decrease in value of the rupee as compared to the dollar while keeping in view the fact that up to 90 per cent raw material of the industry was imported,” he informed.The chairman said, “In the meanwhile, electricity tariff increased by 45 per cent, the natural-gas bill increased by 65 per cent while diesel price also increased by 95 per cent as all these factors also directly affect the cost of our production.”Urging the government to slash duties and taxes on the import of raw materials, including packaging material, he said they contributed Rs. 50 billion annually to the national exchequer in the form of taxes, If the government makes them a taxation-free industry, drug manufacturers could further slash prices by another 15 to 20 per cent, he said.Saeed concluded that doing so could also earn valuable foreign exchange for the country since they would become the second-largest exporting industry of Pakistan within two years.