Sales tax pushes medical devices' prices up, further burdens patients 

Sales tax pushes medical devices' prices up, further burdens patients 

KARACHI: After the imposition of a sales tax in the recent budget the prices of essential medical devices have surged, exacerbating healthcare costs in the country, by pushing up prices of over 200 items, including thermometers, sugar strips, blood pressure monitors, surgical gloves, and wheelchairs.

Market reports indicate that sugar strips, previously priced at Rs700, now cost around Rs1,000 per packet, while wheelchairs’ prices have risen from Rs13,000 to Rs17,000. The prices of other household medical equipment, such as blood pressure monitors, have also increased.

This fiscal measure is expected to disproportionately impact low-income patients, with experts predicting a 25pc to 30pc rise in healthcare expenses. Public hospitals are also set to face budget cuts, potentially reducing crucial medical procedures and diagnostic services.

Masood Ahmed, Chairman of the Healthcare Devices Association of Pakistan, criticized the move, highlighting its adverse effects on treatment accessibility, especially in private hospitals heavily relied upon by middle and lower-income groups.

The association has urged Prime Minister Shehbaz and Finance Minister Aurangzeb to reconsider the tax, warning of dire consequences for patient care.

Dr. Syed Junaid Ali Shah, President of the Private Hospitals and Clinics Association, echoed concerns about the burden on patients, noting that the new taxes compound existing financial pressures on healthcare providers, demanding government support to mitigate these impacts as healthcare is a basic right.

Meanwhile, the cost of medicines in the country has seen an annual increase of 23.33pc, according to a recently released report. In June, these prices rose by 1.59pc compared to May. Additionally, clinic fees increased by over 9pc year-on-year in June.

As stated in the report, medical test fees also surged by 15pc annually, and hospital facilities became more expensive by more than 14pc. Dental services saw a 5.99pc increase in June compared to the previous year, while medical test costs rose by 0.88pc from May to June. Hospital services also experienced a 0.92pc increase in June compared to the previous month.

In a separate development, the Sindh government’s introduction of 15pc tax on medical services has drawn widespread criticism from healthcare professionals and economists, who argue that such measures could deter investment in essential services and education.

Stakeholders from various sectors, expressing dismay over the fiscal policies, urge the government to review the measure and intervene to provide relief to the patients.