There might be many things that are currently wrong with regards to drug regulation in the country, but the issue that is currently hogging all the limelight is the potential name of the national drug regulatory body.
In a meeting of Senate Standing Committee on National Regulations and Services on Tuesday, a special committee was constituted to finalise the name of drug regulatory agency (Drap). The newly-formed team will have two days to give its final recommendations.
Senator Zafar Ali Shah chaired the meeting that was attended by Federal Minister of National Regularization and Services (MNRS) Firdous Ashiq Awan, Senator Abdul Haseeb (MQM), who is also the convener of Senate Special Committee on Formation of Drug Regulatory Authority, and some prominent pharmacists among others.
The main contention among the participants was whether the drug regulatory body would be an agency or an authority.
Senator Abdul Haseeb opposed the name “agency”. He was of the view that if Drap was made an agency it would be run by bureaucrats, who will destroy it. “By making it an authority, we can make sure it is run by professionals,” he said.
Haseeb added the name agency was suggested by the Cabinet Division Secretary Nargis Sethi, “who got a fake draft of the bill signed by the President”.
He also demanded that the authority be headed by a professional pharmacist and not by a bureaucrat.
Later, MNRS Secretary Imtiaz Inayat Elahi briefed the committee that the ministry had agreed on the name “authority” but do not want its head to be appointed from the pharmaceutical industry.
Firdous Ashiq Awan, interjected, saying that the head should be selected and appointed as soon as possible and it should be done on merit. She said 22 people were interviewed for the position but despite references and strong recommendations none of them was selected.
Dr Abdul Saboor Qazi has been appointed as the chief of the body for the time being.
Awan added that her ministry has reduced the prices of drugs remarkably.
However, Senator Haseeb expressed his reservations, saying that the prices of the drugs that have been reduced are the one that were increased illegally.
In the meeting, members of the committee also demanded the formation of a policy board and Drap board to monitor drug manufacturing process in the country. They expressed their dissatisfaction over the ministry’s control over drug prices and said more than one thousand drugs are being sold three times their production cost. Half of the pharmaceutical industries are not following the international standards for drug production, said a participant.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 25th, 2012.
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