Following the PIC medicine debacle, Sri Lanka has banned the import of medicines from Pakistan — a move that would badly hurt the export of locally-manufactured medicines, which had surged to over $400 million over the last two years.
The health ministry of Sri Lanka has taken the decision after over 100 people died due to alleged spurious medicines in Lahore. It was further revealed that more countries – including Vietnam, Burma, Philippines, and Yemen as well as countries from Africa and South America – are also considering reviewing their policies to import medicines from Pakistan.
Sri Lanka suspended the sale and use of Pakistani-manufactured Isosorbide Mononitrate 20 mg drug, used for chest pains, said a senior doctor of the National Cancer Institute of Sri Lanka.
“Isosorbide mononitrate, generally called ISMN, is a drug used principally in the treatment of angina pectoris in Sri Lanka,” he told The Express Tribune from Colombo. Government hospitals in Sri Lanka usually prescribe ISMN, which dilates blood vessels to reduce blood pressure, he explained.
“Our ministry took the decision for safety reasons following reports of the recent deaths from a heart-related drug in Pakistan,” he said, requesting not to be named.
Pakistan Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Association (PPMA) officials also expressed concern over the lingering of the spurious drugs issue, which could stagnate exports if the federal government does not take immediate steps to control the situation.
On the other hand, officials dealing with the issue revealed that the government was deliberating putting around 12 drugs on the import ban list. However, the final decision will be taken after taking into account the investigation reports received from abroad, added an official of the Punjab Health Ministry.
“The government should form a drug regulatory authority in pursuance of better and effective marketing strategies to improve the image and push the export figures up,” the PPMA chairman said.
Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif’s senior advisor Senator Pervez Rashid criticised the federal government for its failure to constitute a drug regulatory authority at the centre. “An international laboratory should be built in Pakistan to test medicines,” Rashid said.
Islamabad is issuing 32 licences to pharmaceutical companies on a daily basis, the senator revealed. “So, this is the main reason which led to the use and distribution of substandard medicines.”
Published in The Express Tribune, February 2nd, 2012.