REFERENCE “Pharma sector attracts meagre $26m FDI” (Oct 28). It presents a bleak picture of Pakistan’s pharma Industry, which is the main source of supply of life-saving drugs. It is horrifying to learn that the market is flooded with counterfeit and low-quality, mostly smuggled medicines.
Even though the Drugs Act 1976 and Drug Regularly Authority of Pakistan Act 2012 provide a full mechanism and adequate financial resources to ensure the quality of life-saving drugs, the issue is being wilfully ignored owing to poor governance and corruption.
During the sixties, 14 leading multinational pharmaceutical companies were directed to undertake the basic manufacture of at least one active, pharmaceutical ingredient. Due to lack of follow-up by the bureaucracy, the project failed.
The chief justice of Pakistan on his visit to health institutions in Lahore recently observed that the Provincial Drug Testing laboratory was not fully functional. Though there are 11 drug-testing laboratories in the country, these labs lack proper facilities in terms of trained and experienced manpower, equipment and the non-implementation of the mandatory International Code of Good Laboratory Practices.
Apart from the inadequate federal and provincial drug testing laboratories, no other Institution or drug- testing lab has been established in spite of the increase in work load from 3,000 registered drugs in 1976 to around 100,000 registered drugs now. Similarly drug manufacturing units have increased from about 200 to around 650. But there is no increase in adequate drug-testing laboratories since 1976
The 1976 National Drug Policy, framed acceding to guidelines provided by the seventh five-year development plan, focused on the availability of essential life-saving drugs of standard quality, at affordable prices. The seventh five-year (1988-92) also provided for the establishment of an institute for the evaluation of the biological out-of-research fund levied under the Drugs Act on the pharmaceutical industry at the rate of one per cent on their profitability for research on drugs. These recommendations have remained on paper since then.
In view of what has been said above, it can safely be concluded that unless the drug laws, drug policies and plans and methodologies as indicated above are implemented in letter and spirit, no improvement can be made in the healthcare system.
Dr. Inam ul Haq
Chairman (r) Drugs Controller and
Quality Control Authority
Published in Dawn, January 9th, 2019