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KARACHI: Pakistan is facing an extreme shortage of imported medical products such as those related to general anesthesia, plasma-derived products, various types of vaccines, cancer-treatment therapies, especially hormones and cardiac enzymes as well as blood-thinning products like Heparin due to rising dollar-rupee disparity.

Importers are unable to supply these products on the existing prices approved by the authorities, pharmacists and healthcare professionals, PCDA office-bearers said.

They said people were moving from pillar to post to get the medicines, medical products and devices which are imported into the country but due to massive increase in their prices in the international market due to various reasons, traders were not ready to import them on existing prices, causing an extreme shortage of these products in the market as well as public and private health facilities.

“Most of the imported medicines and medical products are not available in the local markets due to massive increase in their prices in the international markets. On the other hand, Pakistani regulatory authorities, especially Drug Regulatory Authority of Pakistan (DRAP) are not ready to adjust their prices as per global and local inflation,” Yousuf Ahmed, a hospital-based pharmacist said.

Asim Jamil, an importer of the finished medical products and secretary general of the Pakistan Chemists and Druggists Association (PCDA), also claimed that the prices of imported medicines and medical products have gone up due to massive devaluation of the PKR, which is to the tune of 78% from July 2020 till date.

“Prices medical of products in the international market have also gone up due to various reasons, the main causes of which have been the Covid-19 pandemic, the Ukraine war, and an unprecedented rise in global inflation,” he said, adding that if this issue was not resolved immediately, a medical disaster could occur in their country.

The PCDA has also sent an SOS to the Chief Executive Officer of the DRAP Asim Rauf, urging him to revisit the pricing policy for the finished, imported medical goods and review the ‘cap of three years on hardship cases, as per the amended 2018 pricing policy.

In its letter, Asim Jamal said imported medical products are not locally manufactured and they are 100% impacted by devaluation, adding that historically, once a new high is reached, the PKR has never retreated.

“Based on documentary evidence, importers of medical products should be allowed to apply for hardship, as and when required. Kindly, also consider the current exchange rate of USD 1 = PKR 284, when addressing the pending hardship cases, and cases that have been approved in the DPC in the 53rd DPC, which are pending notification from the federal cabinet,” he said, adding that their member companies have already started conveying their concerns to the Director Costing on this issue, as the PKR has devalued by a huge margin since the time when their applications were submitted.

He maintained that importers of finished pharmaceutical products are going through an extremely difficult phase. Despite the fact that they are very keen to serve the medical faculties throughout the country, and above all the ailing patient population; their business operations are totally at the brink of collapse, he added.

In order to avert an imminent catastrophe, our association on behalf of the importers of finished pharmaceutical requests you to kindly address the following very essential measures, to ensure the continuity of life saving products, Asim Jamal added.

The PCDA office-bearers maintained that as there is a Force Majeure situation that the importers are presently facing, there needs to be an “across-the-board” price allowed as an interim relief. “Products that have become unviable today, cannot be imported as they are not viable. The losses being borne by our members in public and private sector tenders are another factor why they are unable to continue supplies,” he added.

Commenting on the issue of imported products, an official of the DRAP said as per the directives from finance minister Ishaq Dar, who is heading a committee to resolve the medicines’ crisis in the country, the Policy Board of DRAP is going to meet on March 24, 2023 to review the situation and take concerns of manufacturers and importers into consideration.

“Medicine manufacturers and importers should wait for the outcome of meeting of DRAP Policy Board,” the official added.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2023

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