DRAP, NHRSC serving interests of unlicensed manufacturers

Salim Ahmed

Lahore—By over regulating the pharmaceutical industry, the country is serving the interests of smugglers, unethical manufacturers and counterfeiters scarring away pharmaceutical investors to neighboring countries and playing havoc with the health of suffering humanity. Experts wonder whether our regulators are trying to create place for imported drugs only by fixing nonviable prices of the drugs produced in Pakistan. The oft repeated mantra that this is done in the best interest of the patients is defeated when they fix the retail price of Thyroxin at Rs 100 per 100 tablet which in not viable commercially. Some companies out of CSR do produce a limited quantity monthly but most registered manufacturers have stopped producing this life saving drug. The patients are forced to by smuggled or imported thyroxin at ten times the prices fixed in Pakistan.
They fail to understand as to why they cannot follow the examples of neighboring economies like India, Bangladesh and China where the regulations on prices are based on market mechanism and based on economic realities. This they added is the reason that the pharmaceutical industries in all the three economies are flourishing while essential drugs are available freely and at economical prices. These countries are now important global suppliers. Pakistan two decades back was in this position and housed the highest number of multinational pharmaceutical companies. Many of them have closed operations while others are seeing profits decline rapidly forcing them to look at other options. Many multinationals in India on the other hand are expanding plant capacities.
An industry source said that basic issue is to understand the role of regulator which in many cases in Pakistan acts like a controller. Out worldly it appears to be serving the public interest but actually it is all self interest and corruption. He said that out of about 2 dozen multinationals and 300-400 local firms none has FDA clearance of their production facility, a prime requisite to be able to export your products. Whereas even after about 3 years the infant Regulatory Authority in Pakistan has not been able to formulate a policy which could have consent of stakeholders and general public. Unrealistic and harsh price controls on the one hand are promoting smuggling of low priced drugs and on the other hand at the same time are driving essential drugs out of the market creating space for counterfeiters.

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