High time to expand jurisdiction of Drug Administration

Directorate General is powerless during price hikes

It came quite as a surprise that the highest authority in the field of medicine Directorate General of Drug Administration (DGDA) does not have the full authority to control price hike by major pharmaceutical industries of the country. This DGDA is authorized to supervises all kinds of medicines including Ayurvedic, Unani, Herbal and Homoeopathic systems. They regulate all activities related to import, procurement of raw and packing materials, production and import of finished drugs, export, sales, pricing, etc.

However, when it comes to fixing prices of essential medications, they fall short. This is because in 1994, the Ministry of Health authorized the DGDA to determine the price of drugs produced from 117 molecules or raw materials that the country’s pharmaceutical companies used back then. The number of raw materials (molecules) for producing drug in the country has now reached 1,400 but the list of 117 molecules has not changed. So, the DGDA can determine the price of only 8 percent of drugs produced in the country.

The DGDA can determine the 

price of only 8 percent of drugs 

produced in the country

This means that the DGDA, the only drug regulatory authority of the country, is completely ineffective in regulating the price of 92 percent of the drugs circulating in the industry. The government has almost no supervision over the determining of price in the Tk 20,000 crore drug market of the country. The pharmaceutical companies have the final say in this regard. Thus consumers are suffering as they have to pay more and more for essential medication. 

The pharmaceutical companies on the other hand have claimed that the rising costs of production have forced them to increase the price of the drugs. However, formal inquiries must be conducted by DGDA when such claims are made by companies. If the companies are left unchecked, they will continue to increase prices. As a result, many people will become unable to afford life saving drugs, some of which patients might have to take regularly for years. 

This cannot be allowed to continue as the policy was last updated 25 years ago. It was possibly an oversight on the part of the policy makers. However, we are hopeful that they will soon take notice of it and bring the necessary changes to the policy so that the Drug Administration can control 100 percent of the industry.