LAHORE: The Pakistan pharmaceutical industry has the potential to fetch precious foreign exchange through exports of drugs to different markets around the globe, said Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Association (PPMA) Chairman Mian Khalid Misbah-ur-Rehman.
Talking to a select group of media persons here on Monday, Khalid said that the potential of the pharma industry for harnessing exports can be achieved through an urgently needed sectoral growth strategy and corresponding action plan, overhauling of the regulatory regime, deregulation of drug prices, strengthening of intellectual property rights and a consistent policy regime.
“We can make Pakistan a leading player in the global pharmaceutical export market for which there is a need on the part of the government to play the role of a facilitator for the pharma industry in a real sense.
Our pharmaceutical industry had already submitted a set of recommendations and studies to facilitate the industry; if necessary facilities are extended, we can increase Pakistani drugs exports to US $1 billion in three years and US $5 billion in five to 10 years,” he said.
Responding to a query, he admitted that there was a need to prioritize local manufacturing of active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs) to reduce their dependence on imports besides aligning with international standards. “This would not only make us self-reliant but also create opportunities for export-oriented growth,” he observed.
“In this regard, the government needs to provide support and incentives to facilitate the growth of the pharmaceutical industry. With multi-national companies (MNCs) not contributing to new drug registrations at the same rate as in other regional countries, registration of new molecules in Pakistan has fallen,” he noted and added that as per the Drug Act 1976, pricing has to be approved by the Cabinet, even for generic molecules. “This is unique to Pakistan and leads to unnecessary delays,” he added.
“Cost of doing business has increased considerably due to surge in the exchange rate, wages and electricity/gas tariffs,” he said, adding: “The prices of essential drugs are already low and now there is little or even no profit margin; thus there is a need of revising the prices of essential drugs to the levels to provide realistic profit margins to manufacturers, dealers, wholesalers and retailers.”
According to him, timely revision of prices of essential drugs is necessary for stopping more additions to the list of orphan drugs. The lower prices encourage the hoarding and sale of these medicines at higher rates at the retail outlets. The only way to overcome the shortage of these drugs is to give a realistic profit margin to the entire supply chain from manufacturers to retailers.
There are other issues like the provision of raw materials and registration of drugs; the government should implement the drug pricing policy in letter and spirit to save the local pharmaceutical industry from impending disaster.
He said “If there are issues in the existing policy, the government can resolve these after due consultations with the stakeholders; but not implementing existing policies makes no sense.” He said “The ECC has deferred decision on 262 hardship cases.
Last year, DRAP recommended increasing the prices of 262 drugs while rejecting 217 other cases. These cases are still pending even after a lapse of one year. The pharmaceutical companies can’t provide these drugs at old rates, as its manufacturing cost has increased considerably.”
Copyright Business Recorder, 2023