Sheesha may be legalized

Published: July 13, 2019


ISLAMABAD: Senate Standing Committee on National Health Services, Regulation, and Coordination on Friday considered legalising sheesha.

The committee took serious note of low-quality medicines being supplied in the government hospitals of Islamabad and the dubious contract of pharmacy in Polyclinic.

The stranding committee has hinted at sending the matter of appointment if the Drug Regulatory Authority’s chief executive officer on the fake degree to the NAB. If the ministry fails to convince the committee over the appointment of the CEO on a fake degree then the matter will be referred to the NAB.

The committee took notice of the appointment of grade 17 officer on the post of registrar of grade 21 for Pakistan Medical and Dental Council and summoned a reply from the ministry.

“PM Imran has lauded the performance of the Senate Standing Committee on National Health Services, Regulation and Coordination due to its efforts in reducing drug prices,” chairman of the committee Senator Mian Muhammad Ateeq Shaikh said. He said that the price reduction of 5,000 medicines is in the pipeline.

While discussing the progress on the Islamabad Compulsory Vaccination and Protection of Health Workers Bill moved by Senator Ayesha Raza Farooq, Chairman Committee, Senator Mian Muhammad Ateeq Shaikh directed the Ministry to accommodate all government changes in the Bill and submit it to the Committee next week.  The Ministry assured the Committee that changes would be submitted by Friday, July 19.

Discussing the import of medicines and vaccines from India, Senator Abdul Rehman Malik was of the view that in order to curb the shortage of Snake Venom Serum and Rabies vaccines, it must be made mandatory for local manufacturer’s to produce these vaccines in addition to profit making medical products, that flood markets. He said that it was a pity that medicines were being imported from India and China when Pakistan is self-sufficient in medical raw material and that vaccines manufactured here would be much more affordable.

He demanded that the senate be informed about which medicines and vaccines were being imported from India. The senator said he will bring a bill soon for law making regarding the prevention of HIV and Aids. He demanded that HIV and Aids vaccines be supplied easily and at a cheap price.

While taking up the matter of increasing vaccine production at NIH, the committee was informed that a proposal to expand the Vaccines Centre at NIH was underway and that the Institute was currently producing 25,000 vials of Snake Venom Serum and 100000 vials of Rabies Vaccines which once expanded will increase to 100,000 and 700,000 respectively.

Cafes offering sheesha raided

Tax on cigarettes

Considering the point of public importance moved by Pakistan Cigarette, Pan and Cold Drink Retailers Association, the Committee was informed that people were losing livelihood due to the ban on display of cigarette ads. Chairman Committee, Senator Mian Muhammad Ateeq Shaikh directed the Ministry that a middle way must be sought so that these families may be helped without violating international treaties.

Senator Mobeen Yusuf who is associated with the cigarette industry said that 700,000 people were being affected due to the end of cigarette publicity from shops.

Senator Dilawar said that the investors were being protected in the cigarette industry while the poor were being targeted so why not the cigarette industry be targeted. He said that smuggled cigarettes or cigarettes without taxes arrive in Pakistan from Azad Jammu and Kashmir and sold in the market. If the shopkeeper gets a cheap cigarette, he will sell it. But the FBR instead of catching big fish was imposing fines of up to two million rupees on small shopkeepers, he said.

Sheesha bars in homes

Senator Ateeq Shaikh said that the government banned sheesha bars, people brought sheesha to their homes. Earlier, only a segment of youth was indulged in sheesha, now whole families are engaged in this habit. He said that the bill to ban sheesha should be changed and it should be legalised under strict regulations.

The tobacco cell in-charge Ziau Din said that they never gave orders to ban Sheesha and it happened in the direction of the Supreme Court of Pakistan.

During the meeting, the standing committee expressed anger over the appointment of the PMDC registrar. Senator Asad said that one grade promotion is understandable but ignoring three grades to benefit an officer is beyond understanding.

Govt hospitals’ pharmacies

During the meeting, the supply of low quality medicines to hospitals in Islamabad also came under examination.

Senator Kulsoom Perveen said that the Al-Habib medical store that supplies medicines to the polyclinic hospital has all poor quality medicines. The suppliers provide fake medicines to the hospitals and the expiry date on the medicines is only written for two to three months. She said that the details of the Al-Habib medical store which has been given the LP contract by the polyclinic hospital also be summoned. The chairman committee said that the record of hospital contracts and the quality of medicines be checked.

On the matter of appointment of DRAP CEO on fake degree, Senator Dr Ashok said that why no action was taken against those who made appointments on fake degree, the secretary heath said that not checking the degree was the mistake of the recruitment committee and they should have verified the degree from the HEC.  The chairman committee inquired as to what would become of the decision made. The committee directed for all the details of the appointment of former CEO to be presented in the committee.

Published in The Express Tribune, July 13th, 2019.

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