LAHORE, Aug 4: At a time when the country has been facing acute shortage of several life-saving drugs, the Pakistan Narcotics Control Board has withheld the ephedrine quota of some 40 local and multinational pharmaceutical companies asking them to first furnish record of the controlled substance previously released to them.
An official told Dawn that the Drug Regulatory Authority (DRA) had forwarded cases of 50 local and multinational pharmaceutical companies to the PNCB for the release of ephedrine quota.
The board in its meeting held two weeks ago had accorded approval to 10 companies out of 50 for the release of ephedrine quota.
Of the 10 firms whose cases were finalised for the release of the controlled substance, a majority of them got only 30-35 per cent quota against the total requirements.
The official said the DRA had allocated two multinational pharmaceutical companies only 2,000 kg ephedrine against their requirements of 29,000 kilo in the PNCB’s last meeting which was headed by the Narcotics Control Division secretary.
Representatives from Anti Narcotics Force, FBR and DRA also participated in the meeting being members of the board.
“The PNCB has stopped processing the cases of other companies fearing black market of the controlled substance,” the official said adding that the board had directed the companies to submit the record of ephedrine released previously to them by the DRA.
Federal Director General (Health) Qazi Abdul Saboor told Dawn that Federal Minister for National Regulations and Services Firdous Ashiq Awan had ensured that the rest of the companies would be released quota after going through the laid-down process.
A representative of a Pakistan Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Association (PPMA) expressed its grave concern at the indifferent attitude of the federal government saying that the allocation of minimum ephedrine quota to the companies would further aggravate the situation.
He dispelled impression of black market of the substance saying that the government was not allocating the required amount of ephedrine to the companies. “The substance is imported in the country in quantity of 60,000-70,000 kilo, and that is not only consumed with complete record but even the excess is kept available for any surprise audit by PNCB.”
He said low allocation of such ingredients would result in the shortage of anti-anxiety, anti-depression, psycholytic drugs, cough and cold syrups, epileptic drugs, sedatives/hypnotics for sleep disorders, anxiety disorders and depression, tranquilizers/antidepressants, and narcotic analgesics for pain etc.
“Non-allocation of ephedrine quota to 40 pharmaceutical companies will heavily affect the manufacturing of some 600 drug products in the country,” he said.
He said some very important narcotic ingredients such as pseudo-ephedrine, Temazepam, Codeine, Buprenorphine, Ephedrine, Lorazepam, etc. were very crucial to be allocated timely at the start of the year to prevent shortage of the drugs, especially in far-flung areas of the country where winter stayed bit long.