Pharmaceutical industry is fully operational but confronted severe raw material shortage following Indian government decision to ban raw material exports to Pakistan coupled with reduced imports from China due to lockdown in China to contain coronavirus.
This was stated by Dr Kaiser Waheed, former chairman Pakistan Pharmaceutical Manufactures Association (PPMA) while talking to Business Recorder here on Friday.
"Pharmaceutical is considered an essential industry and therefore it remains fully operational while following all government's notified Standard Operating Procedures (SoPs)", said Waheed, adding the shortage of life saving drugs used to treat cancer, Thalessemia, Hepatitis, malaria treatment drugs, snake and dog bites vaccines was imminent.
Waheed said Indian government banned raw material used in medicines to Pakistan, which had created shortage in the country. Companies with raw materials in stock were still producing but once it was depleted there would be serious shortage of life saving drugs in the country, he added.
The PPMA official said Pakistan also imported raw material from China, however due to lockdown, imports had declined. "Some cargo is coming throughout ports, but freight charges are increased manifold which makes it difficult for the pharma industry to import as much as before. The price of raw material from China which cost $100 earlier has now risen to $300," said Waheed. Printing and packaging material was also scarce in the market so companies were unable to deliver whatever medicines they were able to produce, he added.
Waheed said that currently government was focused on import of protective equipment to combat coronavirus including protective gowns, masks, and ventilators through C130. The import of raw material and vaccines was currently negligible, he added.
Those matters were raised with Ministry of Health, National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) and other concerned departments but to no avail, he added.
Responding to another question, he said that pharmaceutical industry was likely to register 40 percent decline in sales that month with OPDs shut, while general public was reluctant to visit hospitals to avoid coronavirus risks.
According to drug dealers not only a large range of the imported drugs but local drugs for instance children cough syrup Tixilix is also not available in the market and dog bite rabies vaccine is also short in the market.
Traders at Bohar Bazaar, the wholesales drug market in Rawalpindi which supplies medicines to entire Khyber Pakhthunkhwa (KPK) Gilgit Baltistan, Azad Jammu and Kashmir and Potohar region, while talking to Business Recorder attributed the drug shortage to Indian phrama companies' denial to do business with Pakistanis and Drug Regulatory Authority of Pakistan (DRAP) drive against smuggled and non-registered medicines.
The drug dealers also blamed government's non-seriousness to address the issue, saying Pakistani pharma companies were hugely relying on import of raw material from India which globally accounts for 40 percent of all raw material. But following Pakistan-India tensions after Modi led Indian government abrogated article 370 and 35-A to end special status of the State of Jammu and Kashmir Indian drug exporters have refused to deal with Pakistani companies, traders said.
Traders said that imported stomach medicine Festal which was used for the treatment of stomach problems was not available.
Traders said Pakistan at present was not only facing serious shortage of cancer related medicines but supply of drugs being used for the treatment of other diseases was also short as imported vaccines for flu and rabies and Furolin, an imported medicine to treat urinary tract infection, were not available in the market.
Arshad Awan, Member of All Pakistan Pharmaceutical Association, said that due to shutdown of out door patients department (OPD) and private hospitals, the consumption of drugs had drastically reduced. He claimed that around 50 percent reduction in demand of medicines was due to the rampage of Covid 19.