Let us not kill the Pharmaceutical Industry of Pakistan through short sighted measures

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 Availability of Essential Drugs at affordable prices should be ensured

Let us not kill the Pharmaceutical Industry
of Pakistan through short sighted measures

Reasonable increase in drug prices keeping in view the inflation,
increased cost of production is essential for the growth
and development of the industry

Unethical marketing practices by the Industry
also needs to be checked

ISLAMABAD: After detailed deliberations between the Pharmaceutical Industry representatives and the Drug Regulatory Authority of Pakistan (DRAP), Ministry of Health Regulations, a formula was worked out for the increase of drug prices annually which was linked with Consumer Price Index keeping in view the inflation and increase in cost of production. Speaking at a meeting organized by the PPMA at Karachi sometime back the Federal Health Secretary Mr. Ayub Sheikh had announced that once this formula is implemented, the industry will not have to apply for increase in drug prices. It will be able to increase the prices as per this formula and put it on their website and also communicate it to the DRAP and other government agencies. The government is also fully aware that keeping a strict control on drug prices is not in the national interest, hence a reasonable increase is long overdue so that the pharmaceutical industry could develop and progress further.

However, it is also important that the authorities prepare a list of essential drugs which are cost effective and their uninterrupted supply and availability must be ensured. Many of these drugs have become economically not viable for the industry, hence one often hears about their shortage. The authorities must look at these cases sympathetically and allow the manufactures a reasonable price increase with some profit margin so that they can continue their production. Another option could be to give some special incentives in the shape of drug registration and pricing to those manufacturers who produce these essential drugs which are quite economical for the patients but have very little profit margin. However, if nothing works, the government can consider setting up a manufacturing plant for essential drugs in the public sector something which was done by the government of Bangladesh and make sure that these essential drugs remain available all the time.

Pakistan imports most of the pharmaceutical raw material hence when there is increase in the price of raw material and other production costs, it is ridiculous to keep strict control on drug prices which will only encourage the Pharma industry to indulge in unethical practices.  Pakistan’s drug market share is not much hence it does not attract the Multinationals, that is why many of them have packed up and stopped their operations in Pakistan and now only a few are left. Leaving of MNCs is not a good omen for the country as they have been introducing many new research molecules. Not only that, they have maintained some standards and set benchmarks for quality assurance for others to follow. Hence, those who invest huge amounts on modernization of their drug manufacturing facilities, expansion of manufacturing plants need some patronage and incentives so that they can have some profits for making this investment. If they do not have any reasonable profit, who is going to make any investment in the field of pharmaceuticals. It is unfortunate that a section of media always feels pride in projecting the bad image of the pharmaceutical industry without realizing the importance of their contributions. Even the national pharmaceutical industry has made some progress and some of these companies have made lot of investments but if the working environment is not made conducive for the industry, it will be of no use and we will also suffer as regards drugs exports from Pakistan. Pharmaceutical industry also helps a number of other related industries besides providing job opportunities to millions of people, absorbing a large number of qualified graduates in science, pharmacy and other fields.

Another disturbing fact which the government authorities needs to look into is the massive unethical marketing practices indulged in by some of the national pharmaceutical companies. They are busy corrupting the members of the medical profession through different ways. National Bioethics Committee had prepared Guidelines on Doctors interaction with the pharmaceutical trade and industry and if these guidelines are implemented in letter and spirit, it can check lot of these unethical marketing practices by the Pharma industry and unethical medical practice by the healthcare professionals. But as always, implementation is the greatest weakness of the government.

There is a great potential of drugs exports from Pakistan but it can only be realized if the DRAP, Federal Ministry of Regulatory Affairs and all those involved in the Drugs Control Department make joint efforts keeping in view the national interests. Authorities should put the clear picture in front of the public and refuse to be blackmailed by the Media with vested interests. Over the years there has been enormous increase in cost of production. Added to this is the inflation and increase in staff salaries and all other services annually, hence how does it justify to keep the drug prices frozen. Let us not forget that if we fail to provide conducive environment to the pharmaceutical industry, we will become dependent on imports and there is no dearth of countries in the region who will be too glad to take advantage of such a situation.

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