ISLAMABAD: Even though GlaxoSmithKline has suspended the production of Panadol — one of the most popular brands of paracetamol — due to an increase in the price of raw materials, there is no shortage of over-the-counter medicine in the market.
According to health officials, multiple brands having the same formula are available in the market.
“It would be unwise to stop using paracetamol due to suspension of Panadol’s production as there are a number of options which could be availed instead,” Islamabad Health Department Quality Control Board Secretary Sardar Shabir said while talking to Dawn.
While replying to a question, he said the price of raw materials used to produce the painkiller witnessed a two-fold increase which affected the availability of these products in the market.
“However some of the brands are very good and can be used instead if people fail to get Panadol. It would be unwise to stop using the medicine,” Mr Shabir said, referring to an increase in the cases of dengue virus and malaria across the country, especially in the flood-hit areas.
GSK asked PM to rationalise prices of paracetamol in line with Drap recommendations
He said brands, such as Calpol, Acetofin, Acetor, Acetosol, Acifin-P, Actifed-P, Actiron-CF, Adalgin, Advil, Afimol, Almol, Amadol, Ambrogesic, Amole Forte, Wyladol, Yanil, Zancpal, Zepyrine and others, were registered with the Drug Regulatory Authority of Pakistan (Drap) and were safe to use.
It is worth mentioning that a number of multinational pharmaceutical companies left Pakistan over the last two decades due to unfavourable business conditions.
Another pharma company GSK which has almost 80pc shares in the production of paracetamol has also warned that the situation had gone beyond its control due to rising prices of raw materials.
GSK sent a letter to the Prime Minister’s Office stating that a number of times it had been informed regarding the critical issue of extraordinary and rapid increase in paracetamol (raw material) prices in Pakistan, and the company had appealed to the government to accord approvals for the adjustments to the selling prices of the paracetamol-based medicines.
“We obtained the approval in the 50th Drug Pricing Committee (DPC) of the Drap, held on January 12, 2022, which were recommended by the DPC for the approval of the Cabinet. But, according to media reports, the same has been rejected after a prolonged delay by the latter without any intimation of the reason given to the company.”
“ Also, although the company has received a routine Consumer Price Inflation (CPI) adjustment for the year 2022 from DRAP on 25 August 2022, the same is not commensurate with the debilitating increase in the prices of the raw material of Paracetamol,” it stated.
“During the last 12 months, the company produced nearly 5,400 million tablets of paracetamol to serve its customers, consumers and patients in need,” it stated, highlighting the role it played during “Covid-19 pandemic, dengue fever crisis, and floods across Pakistan by ensuring continuous supplies” to Panadol.
“However, due to the challenges manufacturing of the paracetamol range on negative margins is unsustainable, and despite exhaustive efforts of the company to mitigate this matter through dialogue, the situation is now beyond our control. We are thus forced to declare force majeure regarding the production…,” it added.
In its letter, GSK said that it remained “keen to meet you to resolve the situation” and sought urgent action to rationalise the prices of the impacted paracetamol material, as recommended by the Drug Pricing Committee of the Drap.
An official of the Ministry of National Health Services, wishing not to be quoted, said that the Drap and the ministry had analysed and agreed that the prices of paracetamol should be increased. Still, during the meeting of the federal cabinet, it was decided not to increase the prices.
“We have suggested the company directly talk to the Prime Minister’s Office as we cannot do anything in that regard,” he said.
Published in Dawn, October 24th, 2022