KARACHI: In the first initiative of its kind in Pakistan, a Rs5 million project was launched here when over a dozen young researchers and healthcare professionals from across the country were selected for research in the areas of paediatrics, diabetes, hypertension, cardiology, endocrinology, gynaecology, orthopaedics, infectious diseases and others key segments of health sciences with a timeline to complete their studies within 18 months.

Designed and launched by the Pharmevo Research Forum, the project engaged some 19 candidates from Pakistan who were awarded grants up to Rs300,000 each for the research work that would lead to identify the areas which needed immediate government attention, policy making, healthcare solutions with modification and innovative ideas for providing the best and low-cost treatment facilities to the countrymen.

Addressing the launching ceremony, leading researchers and healthcare experts regretted that the Drug Regulatory Authority of Pakistan (DRAP), which was “expected and supposed” to give a go-ahead for the clinical trials and research in the field of medicines, had actually emerged as key hurdle in approving such projects while lacking enough qualified people to timely take such decisions.

Initiative launched for research into key fields of health sciences

Calling for conducting clinical trials of medicines manufactured in the West on the people in Pakistan before they are registered by local regulatory authorities, they said Pakistanis and other South Asians were ethnically and genetically different than Western people, said the experts.

“People of Pakistan and other South Asians are different than those in the Europe and Americas, and research has proven that we metabolise medicines differently than people in the West. There is a need to start local trials of medicines and collect indigenous data to come up with local solutions of different diseases and health conditions,” said an eminent physician and director of Clinical Trials Unit at Aga Khan University, Prof Saeed Hamid.

He cited India where no new drug was allowed to be produced locally until and unless local data on its safety, efficacy and dosage was submitted with the regulatory authorities. The studies around the world had proved that different doses of a medicine were required to produce the desired effects among the European and South Asian populations, he added.

Editor-in-chief of Pakistan Journal of Medical Sciences Shaukat Ali Jawaid, who is overseeing the award of research grants, said that although a local pharmaceutical firm was providing the research grants worth millions of rupees to healthcare professionals, but no strings were attached to the funds and researchers were free to select the areas of their research.

“A team of advisers who are prominent healthcare professionals, including Prof Anwar Siddiqui, Prof Badar Fayyaz Zuberi, Prof Feroz Memon and others, have shortlisted and approved the research projects for the award of grants. It is heartening that pharmaceutical industry is supporting the research and others should follow this precedent,” he added.

Speaking on the occasion, Pharmevo chief Haroon Qassim said that total 46 applications for the award of research grants were received from the entire Pakistan, of which 19 scholars were selected for the grants.

“We must understand that research has its own cost and benefits,” he said. “Without the support of industry and corporate sector, research and innovation in the field of medicine is impossible. We have recently witnessed the pandemic which highlighted the best example of the benefits of modern research around the world. Availability of Covid-19 vaccine within six months was not possible, but the research made it possible with the financial support and backing of the industry.”

Published in Dawn, May 19th, 2022

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