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

Pakistan's pharmaceutical firms report 50% decline in profits due to pandemic

Fall comes as people are unable to visit doctors due to lockdown

Usman Hanif April 19, 2020
KARACHI: The pharmaceutical industry of Pakistan has lost 50% of its revenue during the past two months owing to the spread of coronavirus pandemic in the country.

Although medical companies round the globe report higher profits during a health crisis such as this, revenues in Pakistan’s pharmaceutical industry are moving on a downward trajectory.

“During the current pandemic, the sales of medicine companies are down 50%,” said Pakistan Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Association (PPMA) Executive Committee Member Kaiser Waheed. “The reason for this decline is that hundreds of patients are unable to visit doctors due to the lockdown.”

“Due to this, pharmaceutical companies are now facing a cash crunch,” said Waheed.

On one hand, pharmaceutical companies are losing revenue while on the other, the price of raw material for medicines has increased by 300%. Printing and packaging material is also scarce in the market so companies are unable to deliver whatever medicines they are able to produce, he lamented. “The price of raw material from China which cost $100 earlier has now risen to $300,” said Waheed.

Earlier this year, China locked down many areas some of which produced medicinal raw material hence, this caused the prices of raw material to surge by manifold, he explained.

No import through air and sea routes is taking place and special flights are turning out to be very costly for import. The PPMA official added that if special flights were utilised, prices of medicines for the end consumers would soar.

India, which is the source of 50% medicinal raw material of Pakistan, has closed its borders and ceased export of medicines following the spread of the coronavirus.

“Raw material for hydroxychloroquine used to cost only $50 per kilogramme but now it costs $1,400 for the same kilogramme,” he said.

India has hinted that it would open export on limited level hence authorities should request the country to export to Pakistan as it is essential for the society, Waheed said.

According to the association, the size of Pakistan’s pharmaceutical market is $3.5 billion per year - or Rs400 billion.

Citing data, he said on average, a Pakistani utilises medicines worth Rs1,100 per year.

Published in The Express Tribune, April 19th, 2020.

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