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The Pakistan Pharmaceutical Manufacturers’ Association (PPMA) has on Monday lamented the government’s apathy towards addressing issues facing the pharmaceutical sector, stressing that this “attitude forced a shortage of essential medicines in the country”.

“Due to this shortage of legally approved drugs in the market, spurious and smuggled medicines have made their way into the market,” PPMA Chairman Mian Khalid Misbah-ur-Rehman told Business Recorder after holding a press conference aimed at highlighting the industry’s woes.

Regulate quality of medicines, not prices, top Pharma Bureau official advises govt

“These medicines are either below par quality or their supply chain is not properly managed, since they are being smuggled.”

Earlier, PPMA officials held a press conference where they demanded the interim government immediately review hardship cases of 262 drugs for the survival of the Pakistani medicine industry.

Companies operating in Pakistan’s pharma sector in Pakistan face heavy regulation, and are not entirely free in setting prices.

The issue is often taken at the highest economic decision-making forum, the Economic Coordination Committee, while another body – the Drugs Pricing Committee (DPC) of Drug Regulatory Authority of Pakistan (DRAP) constituted on August 5, 2013 – has also been empowered to fix and review maximum retail prices of drugs subject to the approval by the Federal Government.

However, many pharma players see this as a suffocating business environment, especially at a time when businesses are also feeling the effects of rupee depreciation and high energy tariffs.

“The US dollar rate increased 50%, inflation increased by 40%, while electricity and gas prices went up significantly,” added Misbah-ur-Rehman.

Pharmaceutical companies seek ‘inflationary adjustments’ in medicine prices

“Under these circumstances, every industry can increase prices, but the government only forces us to keep rates constant. We cannot operate if the government wants us to continue like this. If the government wants to provide cheap medicines to people, it should keep inflation, dollar rate, electricity and gas prices down.”

He said that over 100 essential drugs are already unavailable in the market and any further increase in the number of missing medicines would be a serious disservice to the country’s patients.

“Patients in such a scenario rely on spurious and smuggled drugs when locally produced medicines aren’t available in the market,” he said.

Former PPMA chairmen Zahid Saeed and Dr Kaiser Waheed, along with other office-bearers of the association were also present in the press briefing.

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The officials asked the government to immediately allow, as per the law, a reasonable increase in prices of 262 medicines, whose applications have been pending for over one-and-a-half years.

“Any further delay by the authorities concerned in deciding these cases means more essential drugs wouldn’t be available in the local market,” Saeed, a seasoned industry official, said.

He said the last time an increase had been allowed by the government the value of the dollar was less than Rs200.

“In addition to the phenomenal increase in the dollar exchange rate, the production cost of medicines has increased manifold due to record inflation,” he said.

He said that there used to be 40 multinational companies 10 years ago but now there remained around just 10 as most of them were reducing their operations in one way or another.

Misbah-ur-Rehman said multinational companies play a bigger role in the pharmaceutical industry as they bring research and development and new treatments and medicines with them.

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“Some 40 to 50 local medicine companies have closed in just Lahore and its adjacent areas only,” Misbah-ur-Rehman said.

He added that Pakistan’s annual pharmaceutical exports stood at a mere $300 million and it had the potential to increase to $5 billion. “For this to happen, the government should implement favourable policies for the drug industry, allowing it to adopt state-of-the-art production technologies.”

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