Delay comes due to absence of signing authority at NCL. PHOTO: REUTERS/FILE

Release of essential medication being delayed across Pakistan

Delay comes due to absence of signing authority at NCL

​ Our Correspondent April 16, 2020
LAHORE: The availability of more than 400 lifesaving drugs in the market, which have already been imported by Pakistan, is being delayed thus sparking a threat of health crisis especially in Sindh and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P).

On the other hand, some of the medical products which are produced locally, are also witnessing delays which is further adding to the woes of hospitals.

It has been learnt that the import of lifesaving biological products including insulin, vaccines, plasma derived products and recombinant biologicals has been completely suspended since March 13.

Release of locally produced and imported supplies are being delayed because the federal government has failed to appoint a signing authority at the National Control Laboratory (NCL) in the past few days who would approve hundreds of pending lots.

As a result, thousands of patients in Pakistan continue to suffer because stocks of essential products have now begun depleting in the hospitals across Sindh and K-P.

The products include vaccines for rabies, tetanus, pneumococcal, typhoid and hepatitis B, tetanus immunoglobulin, rabies immunoglobulin, rabies anti serum, anti-snake venom serum, heparin, insulin and many more.

"The vaccine for rabies is not available at the hospitals in K-P while hundreds of angina patients are seriously in need of Heparin," a source with the knowledge of the situation told The Express Tribune.

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Besides, the source added, dialysis patients in K-P were also affected because they required medication for protein after dialysis sessions which was also in short supply.

“Tetanus vaccine is produced locally but it is short in the market because its release requires approval from NCL,” he said. “Once the release orders are given, companies will need three days to market the backlog of products.”

The source pointed out that as many as 25 applications were being submitted to NCL on a daily basis but bureaucratic hurdles caused delays for products to reach upcountry.

Companies will have to register fresh orders for the biological products after the approval is granted so they could be imported in the next six months.

"Medical companies prefer imported products because they have already undergone tests prescribed by the World Health Organisation," said the source.

In this regard, Pakistan Chemist and Druggist Association penned a letter to the chief executive officer of Drug Regulatory Authority of Pakistan (DRAP).

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"In the light of the current difficult situation which the country is passing through, we cannot afford to withhold the supply of lifesaving biological products to the market due to lack of lot releases from the NCL,” the association stated. "Hence, we urge you to immediately look into the matter and streamline the issuance of all pending and new lot release applications being submitted to the NCL."

The association understood that there was currently no signing authority to process the pending applications therefore it looked forward to DRAP's earliest possible action on the matter.

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