Ministry to inspect pharma units ‘hit by shortages’

Published September 13, 2022
Federal Minister for National Health Services Abdul Qadir Patel addresses a press conference on Monday. — DawnNewsTV
Federal Minister for National Health Services Abdul Qadir Patel addresses a press conference on Monday. — DawnNewsTV

ISLAMABAD: In an announcement unlikely to be welcomed by drug manufacturers, Federal Minister for National Health Services (NHS) Abdul Qadir Patel disclosed on Monday that representatives of his ministry would sit in the production units of those companies whose medicines are short in the market.

The decision has been taken to ensure that production continues amid supply shortages.

The minister has also accused pharmaceutical companies of creating an artificial shortage of medicines, especially Paracetamol, and warned them none of their “blackmail” tactics would work on him.

Addressing a news conference at the office of Drug Regulatory Authority of Pakistan (Drap), Mr Patel said an artificial shortage of medicines had been created to pressurise the government to increase the prices.

Patel accuses pharmaceutical companies of trying to ‘blackmail’ him, says such tactics won’t work

He also saw a political side to the situation, saying PTI Chairman Imran Khan’s frequent speeches had caused ‘constant headaches’ among the masses and thus contributed to shortage of Paracetamol in the country.

“I will not accept any pressure over the issue. I want to make it clear that during the tenure of PTI government prices of 570 medicines were increased by 179 per cent. The National Accountability Bureau even launched a case against PTI’s health minister Aamer Mehmood Kiani,” he said.

“I would suggest the media should criticise the pharmaceutical companies rather than government as companies have created an artificial shortage. Similarly, some politicians have been doing marketing of a pharmaceutical company and its brand rather than focusing on the issue of flood victims,” he said.

He pointed out that over 100 brands of Paracetamol were registered with Drap but unfortunately people demanded only one brand or active pharmaceutical ingredient.

“Because of rumours of a shortage, people also start collecting stocks of medicines which results in a real shortage. Besides, I have been facing pressure for increasing the prices but, being a poor political worker, I will never accept such pressure. I suggest we should all think about the flood-affected people and their issues,” he said.

In reply to a question, Mr Patel said it was the first time that the ministry was working on the registration of raw materials and their prices so that companies would not quote the price of imported raw material by their own.

He said Drap representatives would be appointed in the production units of pharmaceutical companies to ensure that they run at full pace.

Answering a question, he said: “I have offered the companies to contact for the licences and we are willing to issue emergency licences of Paracetamol.”

The minister said he had issued directives for a crackdown against spurious medicines and soon media would get news about actions in this regard.

PPMA’s stance over shortage

Soon after the minister’s presser, the Pakistan Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Association (PPMA) said drug shortage had been caused by exorbitant increase in production costs.

“Several low-priced drugs other than Paracetamol are also facing production issues due to lack of financial feasibility such as anti-malarial drugs, gastroenterology drugs and anti-allergy drugs,” it claimed.

According to the association, in case of Paracetamol there is a Re1 per tablet loss for manufacturers vis-a-vis the selling price of the product.

Talking to Dawn, PPMA Central Executive Committee member Usman Shaukat said: “…in light of the current global economic turmoil, it has become imperative to re-asses the pricing of medicines in Pakistan to ensure uninterrupted supply of life-saving drugs to the masses.”

Published in Dawn, September 13th, 2022

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