Polio markers to be imported from India

Updated December 25, 2019

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After India’s annexation of occupied Kashmir, the government decided to suspend all kinds of trade with India. — AFP/File
After India’s annexation of occupied Kashmir, the government decided to suspend all kinds of trade with India. — AFP/File

ISLAMABAD: The federal cabinet on Tuesday decided to give a one-time permission for import of polio markers from India and reduce prices of 89 medicines by 15 per cent.

The markers, which are used to mark the fingers of chil­dren after administering them polio vaccine, are app­roved by the World Health Organisation (WHO).

It is worth mentioning that after India’s Aug 5 annexation of occupied Kashmir, the Pakistan government had on Aug 9 decided to suspend all kinds of trade with India. However, since a large number of medicines and raw material are imported from India, the country’s pharmaceutical industry started demanding that the ban be lifted on them because otherwise Pakistan could face severe crisis of medicines, especially life-saving drugs, within a few weeks. Consequently, the government had in September lifted the ban on import of medicines and raw material from India.

National coordinator of the Emergency Operation Centre for Polio Dr Rana Safdar, while talking to Dawn, said that non-toxic markers were required for marking the fingers of children. “There are only two WHO pre-qualified manufacturers in the world, in India and China, which manufacture non-toxic markers as children can swallow the ink. Though WHO procures markers for us and, in the past, it had purchased markers from China, there were issues with the quality of markers. We had lodged a complaint that the marks faded before the post-monitoring team’s visit,” he said.

Read more: Fake polio markers highlight risks to Pakistan vaccination drive

“WHO had started procurement from India and, before the announcement of ban, it had given order for 800,000 markers to the manufacturer, but the stock could not be delivered due to the ban. But now because of the decision of one-time lifting of the ban we will get the markers. Meanwhile, the Chinese manufacturer has been contacted to provide us quality markers,” he added.

In reply to a question, Dr Safdar said the stock would be sufficient for the next two nationwide polio campaigns.

Prices of 89 medicines reduced

The federal cabinet decided to reduce the prices of 89 medicines by 15 per cent.

Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Health Dr Zafar Mirza said at a press conference that during a meeting of the cabinet, which had a lengthy agenda, the prices of medicines were also reconsidered.

“The prices of 89 medicines were decreased in line with the Pricing Policy of 2018 as prices of innovator drugs have to be reduced by 10pc after three years of their launch in the market. After considering all the aspects we decided to decrease the prices by 15pc,” he said.

Dr Mirza said Prime Minister Imran Khan had also directed that a new pricing policy be prepared within two months. “We well start working on it at the earliest and are determined to prepare the new policy within the stipulated time,” he said.

Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Information Dr Firdous Ashiq Awan said the health ministry had requested for increasing the prices of some medicines, but it was rejected by the cabinet.

Published in Dawn, December 25th, 2019