Pills and profit

Published Jan 20, 2013 05:29am

“It is not the fault of the industry if the drug addicts are drinking the cough syrup” — Chairman of Pakistan Pharmaceutical Manufacturing Association.

The PIC scandal in Lahore was one shock for the country’s $2billion drug industry but within the span of a year the cough syrup scandal landed the pharmaceutical manufacturers in more trouble putting a question mark on locally produced drugs.

Chairman of Pakistan Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Association (PPMA) Jawaid Akhai maintained that the PIC drug scandal was one dark event of Pakistan’s booming drug industry but the cough syrup scandal has nothing to do with the quality of drugs.

According to him: “It is not the fault of the industry if the drug addicts are drinking the cough syrup while mixing it with some narcotic substance.”

Several people, allegedly drug addicts, died in November 2012 when they took the syrup in the low-income Shahdra Town of Lahore; the provincial government later closed down the factory and the matter is still under investigation.

“This syrup issue is still being probed by the government but we did not compromise on the quality of drugs knowing the fact that we are in trouble again after the PIC drug issue,” said the PPMA chief.

Last year, the national drug industry remained under scrutiny of the media and the public as over 100 cardiac patients died in Lahore after taking pills provided by the PIC. The Supreme Court had to intervene, directing the government to establish the Drug Regulatory Authority of Pakistan.

“During Pakistan’s 50-year history our industry has witnessed rare scandals, like the PIC drug scandal or the current cough syrup issue, which highlights that Pakistan’s drugs are safe for use,” asserted the president of the PPMA.

“The PIC drug scandal was a painful event and turned out to be a hard pill for the industry and we really feel sorry for that but tagging the whole industry with one event will be unfair,” said the president of the PPMA.

Regarding the cough syrup scandal he claimed: “The issue is not with our drug manufacturer instead it’s with the drug addicts since they used it with some narcotic substance; the drug is fit for use.”

Commenting over the growing pharmaceutical industry and internationally acceptable quality of Pakistani drugs Mr Akhai informed Dawn that Pakistan’s manufactured drugs are trusted in more then 60 countries.

“The total size of the drug industry is $2 billion as per PPMA figures, while we are also exporting drugs worth $200 million to 60 countries,” insisted PPMA’s chief.

On the fact that Pakistan’s pharmaceutical industry is without any FDA approval, the US approved industry, Mr Akhai maintained: “Establishment of FDA approved drug industry in Pakistan needs a huge investment, however we are working on it and the Ministry of Regulations and Services has shown its willingness to support us (PPMA) for establishment of such an industry.”

The Ministry of Regulations and Services manages the drug industry through the Drug Regulatory Authority of Pakistan that regulates the pricing, registration and licensing matters of drugs.

PPMA chief said that around 700 companies are attached with the pharmaceutical manufacturing business “so instead of criticising the industry we should be supported by the government to fulfil the needs of drugs at the national level.”

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