Health officials fear a shortage of life-saving drugs in the near future in the wake of the June 8 burning of a Karachi airport warehouse where the raw materials of these medicines were stored. These goods, estimated to be worth up to Rs1 billion, were destroyed during a siege of the airport by militants.
“It is a massive loss and could result in a shortage of those particular drugs in the country in the near future,” said a senior official at the Ministry of National Health Services, Regulation and Coordination (NHSRC) on the condition of anonymity.
When contacted, Director Pricing DRAP Amanullah said he was completely unaware of the issue. DRAP Chief Executive Officer Arshad Khan was unavailable for a comment.
The official said the raw materials had been imported from the US, Europe, China, India and other Southeast Asian countries; the imported goods reached the airport at the end of May and were awaiting clearance from the Drug Regulatory Authority of Pakistan (DRAP) and customs authorities. “The delay in the issue of the no-objection certificate is actually one of the reasons for this significant loss,” the official said.
The raw material was intended for the manufacture of various medicines such as tablets, capsules, syrups, injections, creams and sachets. Additionally, 80 per cent of packaging materials such as polyvinyl chloride (PVC), aluminum foil, glass vials or rubber is also imported. Active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs) used in the manufacture of psychotropics and narcotics were also destroyed in the fire, as were diagnostic kits and other medicinal products. “The import of these materials takes place over three months,” the official told The Express Tribune. “We don’t know how we are going to overcome this loss. Patients’ lives completely rely on these medications and a slight decrease in the supply in the market can greatly affect their lives.”
The DRAP deputy director general has issued a circular after the incident, saying that all air freight consignments must be cleared within 24 hours.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 18th, 2014.
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