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ISLAMABAD: The local pharmaceutical industry on Monday expressed serious concerns over the imposition of ‘Super Tax’ on the pharmaceutical companies at a critical time.

The industry has also decided to unilaterally increase the prices of medicines under the protection of courts/ Drug Regulatory Authority of Pakistan (DRAP) or it will be left with no option other than to close all factories after a seven-day period.

The decision was taken by the industry during an emergency meeting of the pharmaceutical manufacturers held on Monday. The industry has threatened that the availability of medicines beyond the next seven days period is not possible as the industry has become completely unsustainable to manufacture medicines.

According to a letter of the pharmaceutical industry to the Ministry of Health Services, Regulation and Coordination and the DRAP, the local pharmaceutical industry is heavily dependent on the import of raw materials, in order to ensure uninterrupted availability of medicines in the country.

Unfortunately, the pharmaceutical industry suffered a devastating blow as prices of the Active Pharmaceutical Ingredients i.e. raw materials used in the manufacturing of drugs increased exponentially in the international market since the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic. Simultaneously, factors of production such as the cost of fuel, electricity, freight charges, and packing material witnessed an unprecedented increase during the same period. It is to be noted that the Pakistani rupee has devalued by more than 67 percent against the United States dollar since July 2020.

Despite the foregoing, the pharmaceutical industry played a pivotal, patients-centric, and responsible role during the Covid-19 pandemic, dengue fever crises, and public health crises emanating due to massive monsoon rainfalls and unprecedented levels of flooding by ensuring uninterrupted availability of life-saving medicines to its own detriment.

In order to avert an imminent catastrophe, the pharmaceutical industry continuously and repeatedly requested and implored the federal government and the DRAP to take appropriate, concrete and remedial measures by inter alia allowing inflationary adjustments in the maximum retail prices of medicines, which if not addressed would result in the inevitable collapse of the local pharmaceutical industry. The pharmaceutical industry continuously drew the attention of the federal government and the DRAP towards the fact that the impediment of growth in the pharmaceutical industry would have one critical effect; the denial of access of patients and the public at large to safe, effective, potent, beneficial, efficacious and economical drugs.

The industry pointed out that the federal government and the DRAP have failed to take any measures whatsoever to protect the public en masse and remedy the ongoing situation, which has resulted in the collapse of the pharmaceutical industry as it is unable to ensure further production of safe, efficacious, and qualitative therapeutic goods with rational use at reasonable prices to the general public. It goes without saying that reasonable prices not only mean those which are reasonable for the public at large but also for those at which the pharmaceutical industry can manufacture, import, distribute, market and sell the same as well. This is a fundamental right guaranteed to the members of the pharmaceutical industry under Article 18 of the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan 1973, pharma industry explained.

Needless to say, the situation has further aggravated as the Pakistani rupee has devalued by approximately 26 per cent against the US$ since July 2022. Most importantly, since the beginning of the month of January 2023, Pakistani rupee has devalued by approximately Rs50 against the US$, it maintained.

Furthermore, the Consumer Price Index rose by 27.6 percent in the month of January 2023 compared to the same period last year. On account of the volatile economic situation presently prevalent in the country, it is projected that the Pakistani rupee will continue to further devalue and the CPI will continue to increase.

Notwithstanding this critically important matter, which is bound to severely affect the general public, the complete apathy of the federal government and the DRAP, in failing to take any remedial steps has resulted in a force majeure being triggered in respect of the pharmaceutical industry’s obligations to ensure uninterrupted availability of medicines in the local market and to the public at large, which as a result of the aforementioned situation, has now become impossible, the industry warned.

In view of the foregoing and being compelled and constrained by the circumstances beyond the control of the pharmaceutical industry, it has become completely unsustainable to manufacture medicines and ensure their availability beyond the next seven days, the industry added.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2023

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