The local pharmaceutical industry has warned the government of acute medicine shortage within next four weeks, if appropriate steps are not taken to deal with the situation.
Dr Kaiser Waheed Sheikh, former chairman Pakistan Pharmaceutical Manufacturing Association (PPMA) said that an urgent pharmaceutical support policy was needed to deal with the crisis. He said that the government instead of wasting time on corona control measures, which was a public health issue, and should be taken by the National Institute of Health (NIH), must focus on more critical issue of emerging medicine shortage. Sheikh said that already the packing material shipments were on hold from China and India had already stopped export of raw materials to Pakistan. The Drug Regulatory Authority Pakistan (DRAP) needed to listen to the PPMA's latest request and must immediately act as it was already too late.
"I am astonished why the government isn't allowing the pharmaceutical industry to flourish, which has huge potential not to cater to national needs but can earn significant foreign exchange by exporting the medicine," he said. "As always we are distracted in other people's work and not concentrating on what we should do. The world is closing down and the DRAP is not realising that there will be an acute shortage of API and other raw materials," he maintained.
Another former PPMA chairman said that the industry was not only facing raw material shortage challenges, but also policy and policy implementation challenges in the country. He said the pharmaceutical industry of Pakistan will do its best to ensure availability of essential medicines required in the country to deal with the coronavirus situation but the industry at present is not in a position to produce a pack of 1,000 chlorine tablets at Rs 525. He suggested the government needed to revise the policy regarding pharmaceutical industry. He said that the drugs' manufacturers in the country were fully ready to play their due part in the nationwide efforts being rendered to combat the coronavirus, while considering it as their national obligation. The PPMA leader said that apart from the continuous production to its fullest capacity, the pharmaceutical industry of the country was also ready to provide whatever assistance the concerned quarters required from it to fight against the coronavirus.
Drug dealers and wholesale traders said that Pakistan at present was not only facing serious shortage of facemasks, sanitizers, ventilators, but was also facing serious shortage of cancer, asthma, allergies and other diseases-related medicines.
For instance, Vento line spray, inhalers, solutions, imported vaccines for flu and rabies and Furolin, an imported medicine to treat urinary tract infection, are not available in market. Traders said that during past year and half, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf government allowed pharmaceutical companies to increase the medicine prices four times, which could not be justified in the name of rupee depreciation or increase in input costs as in January 2019 the government allowed pharmaceutical industry to increase the drug prices but the industry since than has continued increase in medicine prices.
They further said that in April the drug manufacturers increased drug prices in the range of 15-300 percent and in August the pharmaceutical companies brought another increase in the medicine prices.