EDITORIAL: It has been a serious public health threat for decades. A large number of the medicines circulating in this country are either substandard or fake. Even life-saving drugs are not spared.

According to the ministry of National Health Services (NHS), 85 percent of the medicines on sale are spurious. It has finally decided to give the issue the attention it deserves.

A delegation headed by the federal health minister Abdul Qadir Patel has been visiting the US to look for effective ways to deal with the problem. The delegation held consultations with Food and Drug Administration (FDA) officials on a regulatory framework, drug approval processes, post-marketing surveillance, and quality control measures.

A statement issued after the meetings noted that the consultation aimed to “foster collaborative efforts between Pakistan and the US to curtail the menace of spurious and substandard medicines.” Help was also sought for capacity building of the Drug Regulatory Authority of Pakistan (DRAP).

One obvious area where the FDA can help strengthen DRAP is with its expertise in analysing counterfeiting, adulteration and contamination of pharmaceutical products.

In the present financial crunch times, DRAP is unlikely to have the resources required for upgrading its testing facilities or research and development work.

Since the statement also highlighted the importance of “international partnerships in promoting public health and ensuring the availability of safe and effective medicines” this suggests the US may have offered assistance toward that end.

Another need, as pointed out by those related to the business, is technology used to create a digital record of a product’s authenticity that makes it difficult for unscrupulous elements to replicate, also enabling legitimate pharmaceutical companies as well as consumers to confirm whether or not a product is genuine. In case DRAP lacks the knowhow, hopefully, there will be no hindrance in the transfer of this technology to Pakistan.

No less important is enforcement action against counterfeit drug manufacturers. That they are hiding in plain sight is evident from the ministry’s acknowledgment that 85 percent of the medicines on sale in the market are spurious.

The DRAP CEO, who accompanied the minister to the US, has been quoted as claiming that the National Task Force on Eradication of Spurious Therapeutic Goods registered as many as 48,418 violations at about 56,153 outlets during the financial year 2022-23.

He did not mention, though, if those playing with the lives of unsuspecting consumers were brought to justice. Considering the prevalence of corrupt practices, it would not be surprising if most of the culprits have been let off the hook. Little will change for the better as long as enforcement remains as lax as it is at present.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2023

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Asad May 28, 2023 01:38am
Pakistan has 5 public sector quality control laboratories that are WHo Prequalified. 90% of the medication needs of the population are being met by the national pharmaceutical manufacturers. where this is the statement for 85% are spurious. It is definitely false and misleading. Is there any authentic citation for this statement? Pakistan labs are testing huge numbers of samples every year more than 30 thousand batches are being tested every year including procurement batches by large hospitals and only qualified batches are relaesed for use.
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