LAHORE: The persistent shortage of life-saving medicines across the country may aggravate as 140 pharmaceutical companies have submitted a list of nearly 1,300 drugs (molecules) to the Drug Regulatory Authority Pakistan (Drap) categorically conveying that they have stopped production of these medicines in the prevailing economic crisis.

As many as 100 chief executive officers (CEOs) of the pharmaceutical firms apprised the government about the depressing situation in a high-level meeting held with Finance Minister Ishaq Dar in Islamabad on Tuesday.

Pakistan Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Association (PPMA) Chairman Syed Farooq Bukhari and other members represented the country’s pharma industry in the meeting which was called to avert the crisis brewing because of the federal government’s policy on imported goods.

Some members of the PPMA told this reporter that the pharmaceutical industry was heavily dependent on the import of raw materials in order to ensure uninterrupted supply of medicines.

140 companies submit list of nearly 1,300 molecules for stopping production

Unfortunately, they said, pharma industry suffered a devastating blow when prices of active ingredients/raw material used in manufacturing of drugs increased exponentially.

Simultaneously, cost of fuel, electricity, freight charges, packing material and exchange rate witnessed an unprecedented increase, resulting in stymieing production.

The PPMA office-bearers said over 500 life-saving medicines had gone scarce countrywide since the government evolved a policy on import of the raw material and other goods.

Following the policy, they said, the State Bank of Pakistan had asked the banks to impose certain restrictions on opening Letters of Credit (LCs) for the import of essential goods, especially raw material.

They said the depressing situation led to the stoppage of production of several medicines in Pakistan due to non-payment in foreign currency, particularly in dollar.

Consequently, the number of medicines [in short supply] increased from 500 to 1,300 when the pharmaceutical industries stopped production as they were unable to make procurement of raw material from other countries due to the massive increase in the dollar rate in Pakistan.

“We held a meeting with Finance Minister Ishad Dar on Tuesday and told him clearly that some 140 pharmaceutical firms decided to stop production of life-saving medicines and submitted a list of 1,300 molecules to the Drap in this respect”, PPMA central chairman Syed Farooq Bukhari told Dawn.

He said the most disturbing part of the development was that the medicines were meant for heart diseases, those used in the intensive care units, epilepsy, allergy, blood pressure, sugar, antibiotic, and anaesthesia drugs.

These drugs were short in production and supply all over the country, Mr Bukhari said adding that even common-use medicines including ORS, were also among them which were rarely available in the market.

He said Heparin is a life-saving medicine used abundantly and its shortage would cause grave problems as it was given promptly to the patients visiting the hospitals’ emergencies in life-threatening condition of trauma.

“We have conveyed to the finance minister that it was not a crisis of pharma industry of the country, it was actually a national crisis since the lives and health of millions of people are involved”, Syed Farooq Bukhari said.

He warned that the number of [short] drugs may further increase to 2,500 in coming days as more firms have stopped production of the medicines and they were writing to the Drap.

The PPMA central chairman said the pharmaceutical industry time and again requested the federal government and the Drap to take concrete remedial measures by allowing inflationary adjustments in the maximum retail prices of medicines which, if not addressed, would result in the inevitable collapse of the industry.

Spokesperson for the Young Pharmacist Association Pakistan Noor Mehar also confirmed that the shortage of life-saving medicines reached an alarming level.

He said the denial of access of patients to safe, effective, potent, beneficial, efficacious and economical treatment was blatant violation of the human rights, holding the federal government and Drap responsible for the grave situation.

Published in Dawn, March 15th, 2023

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