Cabinet Division’s request: Drug watchdog may be devolved to provinces

Recommendations have been sent to the PM to hand Drug Regulatory Authority over to provinces.


Zahid Gishkori April 03, 2012

ISLAMABAD:


The Cabinet Division has requested the prime minister to transfer the Drug Regulatory Authority (DRA) to the provinces as guaranteed under the 18th Amendment – a move which could finalise the devolution process.


Officials said that the move would empower the federating units to deal with matters like drug licences and regulation, especially since the health ministry had been devolved to the provinces after the passage of 18th Amendment. The Pakistan Medical Association (PMA), however, opposed the idea, urging the government to retain drug licensing and regulation powers with the centre through further amendments to the constitution.

The DRA, in light of the 18th Amendment, has to be devolved to the provinces, especially after President Asif Ali Zardari issued an ordinance to form a Drug Regulatory Agency (different from the Drug Regulatory Authority) which is to continue to operate at the centre and address drug policy issues at a federal level. Earlier this year, President Zardari issued an ordinance for the formation of the Drug Regulatory Agency when the PIC medicine disaster hit the country.

“The prime minister may consider the Cabinet Division’s recommendations to transfer the DRA to the provinces,” a spokesperson of the department said, adding that a proposal had been sent to the Prime Minister Secretariat on Friday.  “It is unclear what will be the fate of staffers working with the DRA,” he said, adding officials hoped that they will be transferred to the newly formed Drug Regulatory Agency. Five top civil servants might rejoin their parents departments as they were on deputation, officials added. Around 30 to 35 junior staff members are working for the authority in Islamabad.

Two provinces – Sindh and Punjab – have already been authorised by Parliament in February to enact laws for setting up DRAs on the advice of the federal government.

PMA President Tipu Sultan was of the view that the regulatory authority should continue to function at the federal level, as drug prices and standards varied in different provinces.

However, he parried the question as to whether there was any need to retain two regulatory bodies at the Centre.  Provincial drug regulatory authorities, he feared, might encourage the smuggling of medicines between the provinces.

Cabinet Division Secretary Nargis Sethi, on behalf of the federal government, has also written to the provinces to forward their nominations to represent the policy board of the newly-formed Drug Regulatory Agency. Senior Joint Secretary Hafiz Ziauddin, on the directions of Sethi, prepared the recommendations. The agency, under the new ordinance, will consist of a chief executive officer and 13 members, which includes posts regarding registration, medicines, licensing, pharmacy, prices determination, manpower and legal affairs.

All the provinces will be represented through the members.

Published in The Express Tribune, April 3rd, 2012.

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