Pharma industry needs urgent reforms

PPMA chief seeks govt intervention to make sector regionally competitive

Our Correspondent April 18, 2024
The pharma sector is in a poor condition because govt does not treat it as an industry rather it considers the sector as a philanthropist, says a drug manufacturer. PHOTO: FILE


The Pakistan Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Association (PPMA) has stressed the necessity of updating existing drug laws to align with global trends for the benefit of patients and the pharmaceutical industry.

“Local industries are shutting down due to historically high input costs, the highest inflation, and bank markup rates in Asia. Multinationals are vanishing due to excessive regulations. Currently, only four Multinational companies (MNCs) are operating in the country, all of which have recently reported historically high losses,” PPMA Chairman Mian Khalid Misbah stated on Wednesday.

While addressing the media, he highlighted that patients are the ultimate sufferers, and the situation is deteriorating. “There is an urgent need for government intervention to save the pharmaceutical industry for the greater good of the country and its ailing population.”

“The world has progressed, but we remain stagnant. India sets prices for 384 medicines listed in the World Health Organisation’s essential drug list. Bangladesh has gone a step further by regulating only 117 drugs, leaving the rest to market forces,” Misbah noted. “Medicine availability is better in these countries, with lower prices due to open competition. Additionally, they earn billions of dollars in foreign exchange through exports,” he added, pointing out that India’s drug exports exceed $28 billion annually.

The PPMA chairman strongly believed that the federal government has taken a significant step by deregulating prices of non-essential drugs, which will provide much-needed relief and attract investment to the sector. However, he stressed that more must be done to align pharmaceutical sector regulations with those of neighbouring countries and make it an attractive investment market.

“Inordinate delays in setting/revising prices of hundreds of essential drugs have led to severe shortages. For instance, the delay in revising the hardship price of Tegral (a medicine for seizures) has resulted in it being sold for Rs3,000 or more, which is four times the proposed revised price,” he explained.

“Such prolonged, unnecessary delays allow counterfeit and smuggled medicines to enter the market, greatly affecting patients. Timely policy implementation will improve medicine availability, attract foreign direct investment, and encourage MNCs to remain in Pakistan,” underscored the PPMA chairman. “The government should increase the health budget from 1% to 2% to provide life-saving essential drugs free of charge to patients at government hospitals, as done in other countries,” he added.

Published in The Express Tribune, April 18th, 2024.

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