The Consumers Association of Bangladesh (CAB) yesterday demonstrated in Dhaka in protest at the recent increase in the prices of essential drugs.
Through interviews with patients, the organisation had found that prices of a number of medicines for gastric and ulcer and antibiotics rose up to 20 percent in the last six months, said Humayun Kabir, general secretary of CAB, at a human chain in front of the Jatiya Press Club.
"With such an irrational price hike of medicines, the poor patients are struggling to bear their healthcare cost," he added.
Golam Kibria, director of the Directorate General of Drug Administration (DGDA), however, told The Daily Star that there was no scope for a price hike, as a committee was designated to determine prices of such drugs.
Humayun said the pharmaceutical companies were so influential that they cared none before hiking the prices.
Lax government regulation also leads to such price hikes, he said. "In reality, the drug administration serves the interests of the medicine companies, not of the people."
Adulterated and counterfeit medicines are flooding the market but the drug administration is not taking stern actions against the manufacturers, speakers at the human chain said.
The situation cannot continue any longer when it poses serious threats to public health, said rights activist Mahbubur Rahman. The number of patients is going up day by day, and the increasing healthcare cost is pushing more people towards poverty.
CAB demanded that a monitoring cell be formed to prevent adulterated medicines and a rule be imposed to make it mandatory to hang a price list at the medicine shops.
It also demanded banning of drug sales without written prescriptions, establishment of more drug testing labs, and enforcement of laws to discipline the medicine companies.
The Communist Party of Bangladesh, Gono Gorum and Nagorik Oikya expressed solidarity with CAB.
After the demonstration, the consumers' rights body submitted a memorandum to DGDA in Motijheel asking it to look into the matter of price hike and take stern actions against those responsible for drug adulteration.