No shortage of raw materials, says pharma industry

Published March 29, 2020
QUETTA: Pharmacies have witnessed quadruple-digit growth in sales of items like alcohol swabs and hydroxychloroquine since Feb 26 when the country reported first confirmed case of coronavirus.
QUETTA: Pharmacies have witnessed quadruple-digit growth in sales of items like alcohol swabs and hydroxychloroquine since Feb 26 when the country reported first confirmed case of coronavirus.

KARACHI: Local and foreign pharmaceutical companies have not closed down yet despite facing shortage of imported raw materials from India and China and are instead trying to source them from other sources.

“We can sustain with available raw material stocks till April. Companies are managing special cargo flights through foreign and local logistic players and bringing inputs from various sources despite higher cost,” Pakistan Pharma­ceutical Manu­fac­turers Association (PPMA) Chairman Mohammad Zaka ur Rehman told Dawn from Lahore on Saturday.

“Manufacturers also have sufficient stocks of medicines. Consumers should avoid panic buying. Instead of a particular brand prescribed by the doctors, they can ask the practitioners to shift to other names of the same formale produced by different companies in larger numbers,” he said.

“Our medicine industries are open. China is also open now but flights are not coming, while India is locked down for three weeks followed by closure of some European and far east countries,” Rehman said.

After a war-like situation between Pakistan and India last year and suspension in bilateral trade,, local pharma companies had found new sources for procuring raw materials, he said.

Intra-country movement of goods being restricted despite exclusion

“The proportion of Indian raw material has plunged to 10-15 per cent from 40pc a year back, followed by an increase in share of China to 40pc from 25pc in the same period,” he claimed.

In domestic markets, medicine shortage has emerged owing to detention of vehicles on inter-provincial and intercity routes carrying raw materials and finished goods by the law enforcement agencies despite exemption on pharmaceutical items. He hoped that situation would improve from Monday as Prime Minister Imran Khan had allowed free goods movement to avert any shortage of essential goods.

PPMA chief said that around 80pc of doctors are also not opening their clinics in Punjab mainly, as well as other provinces due to the lockdown, thus creating problems for non-coronavirus patients.

“I have asked the Punjab government to allow opening of clinics as people are avoiding going to the public sector hospitals where COVID-19 infectees are being treated.”

Pharma Bureau (PB) Spokesperson Ayesha Tammy Haq told Dawn that “so far no company has closed down due to raw material shortage.”

“Our member companies are bringing raw materials from different sources instead of China and India,” she said, adding “our industries still have sufficient raw material stocks in hands.”

However, she feared shortage of medicines in the country amid lockdown as despite the exclusion, security agencies are hindering movement and transportation of medicines and employees of pharma companies.

Haq requested the government to support uninterrupted movement of medicine and employees of pharma companies to ensure smooth manufacturing and supply of medicines. Otherwise, non-availability of pharmaceuticals could convert into a serious problem in the current circumstances.

Employees of pharma companies are also being stopped on their way to offices which may impact production and supply of medicines, she added.

Pakistan’s pharma market is around Rs450 billion and one of the biggest employers in the country.

Published in Dawn, March 29th, 2020


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