The federal health minister has called for amendments to the Drug Act 1976 to give life imprisonment or death sentences to the manufacturers of spurious drugs.
“I am going to make this demand on the floor of parliament to put an end to this practice which is claiming the lives of innocent people,” said State Minister for National Health Services, Regulations and Coordination (NHSRC) Saira Afzal Tarar while speaking at a press conference on Thursday.
She said that according to the act, if a person was found involved in manufacturing spurious drugs for the first time, he would be awarded three-to-ten years imprisonment, which was not enough.
“Playing with peoples’ lives is a heinous crime and the punishment for this should be lifelong or death, and the money earned through illegal means should also be retrieved,” she suggested.
The minister also expressed concern over the illegal price hike of drugs.
“On the instruction of the prime minister, drug inspectors and FIA teams have started raiding drug-manufacturing companies that have jacked up prices on their own,” she said.
Tarar said the main issues behind the illegal price hike and mushroom growth of sub-standard drugs was the absence of a pricing mechanism, acute shortages of staff, and the absence of a chief executive officer at the Drug Regulatory Authority of Pakistan (DRAP).
“If DRAP gets a CEO, I assure you that all issues related to drugs will be resolved,” she said.
The minister said that following the lifting of ban on recruitments, 52 new seats have been created at the DRAP.
So far, 812 people have cleared their National Testing Service test and five top scorers will be interviewed against each post, she said adding that a four-member committee has been constituted for the purpose.
“I assure you that full efforts will be made on merit and in a transparent manner,” she said.
Tarar said that to improve the DRAP, the federal government has requested that the World Health Organisation provide technical consultants to overcome deficiencies.
“I assure you that by December 2014, all issues pertaining to drugs will be resolved,” she said.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 4th, 2014.