WHO accredits Pakistan’s first independent drug testing laboratory in Islamabad

Updated June 30, 2020

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Most of the equipment for the laboratory has been imported from Japan and Germany. — AFP/File
Most of the equipment for the laboratory has been imported from Japan and Germany. — AFP/File

ISLAMABAD: The World Health Organisation has accredited Pakistan’s first independent drug testing laboratory, heralding a surge in exports of pharmaceutical products from Pakistan.

Located in Islamabad, the laboratory has been determined by the WHO to be operating at an acceptable level of compliance with its Good Practices for Pharmaceutical Quality Control Laboratories (GPPQCL).

Most of the equipment for the laboratory was imported from Japan and Germany, and it is using software compliant with the United States Federal Drug Authority (FDA) to ensure that the drugs it tests meet international standards.

Pakistan’s exports around $200 million worth of medicines compared to India’s $20 billion. Afghanistan is at the top of the list of destinations for medicines exported by Pakistan, but Pakistan has lost a significant market share to India there, with exports falling from $75m in 2016 to $65m in 2018.

The Trade Development Authority of Pakistan (TDAP) has called for the identification of new markets for the country’s pharmaceutical products as exports to traditional destinations are consistently declining.

The state-owned TDAP urged the industry to identify newer regions to do business and advised the government to set up exhibition stalls in potential markets. A consistent lack of exploring new markets by pharmaceutical exporters over the past few years indicates a trend towards stagnation.

“[The exports’] inability to penetrate new markets needs to be addressed,” the TDAP said in a report, adding: “The top buyers are consistently Afghanistan, Sri Lanka, Philippines and Vietnam. The same buyers, year after year, are indicative of a concentration risk. New markets need to be explored.”

Over the past three years, the top markets for Pakistan have not varied much. Afghanistan, Sri Lanka, Philippines, Vietnam, Lithuania and South Sudan have been the biggest markets for Pakistani pharmaceuticals.

However, the market share of Pakistani medicines in Afghanistan has been on the downward trend for the past three years, while the market share in Vietnam declined to 0.4pc in 2018 from 1pc in 2016 due to the increasing presence of Indian products.

Pakistani medicine exports to Sri Lanka were $20m, representing a 5pc market share. The Philippines was the third largest customer of Pakistan with $18m in imports. However, the market share in the Southeast Asian economy was extremely small at 1.2pc, due to the large amount of medicine imports - worth $1.3bn.

Talking to a group of reporters Prime Health Chief Operating Officer Dr Ambreen Amir said there are around 700 pharmaceutical companies in Pakistan and the country has great potential for export of generic medicines.

She said the establishment of an independent laboratory meeting international standards would help the pharmaceutical industry find new destinations which it could not access in the past due to the stringent compliance requirements of regulations in the US, Europe and other developed countries.

About the capacity of the WHO-prequalified lab, she said it can perform comprehensive analysis, from credible prediction of in vivo disintegration and dissolution profile of a tablet to

testing for any impurities and determining a medicine’s shelf life under specific temperature and humidity conditions.

Published in Dawn, June 30th, 2020