ISLAMABAD: Caretaker Health Minister Dr Nadeem Jan on Wednesday said the interim government has started negotiations with stakeholders to set up a ‘Pharma Park’ in Pakistan which would potentially reduce the prices of medicines as well as increase the capacity of the local industry.

According to the interim minister, the ‘Pharma Park’ aimed to start the production of molecules locally instead of importing them in a bid to reduce the strain on foreign exchange reserves.

“We have also started negotiations with friendly countries and companies for transfer of technology so that Pakistan would be able to control prices, supply and ensure the quality of medicines,” the minister said while talking to Dawn. He said that ‘Pharma Park’ was a “special place” for the pharma industry to establish industrial units in the country.

“Unfortunately we don’t manufacture molecules and spend billions of dollars on imports of raw material every year. I joined the health ministry [in the interim set-up] with the goal of establishing ‘Pharma Park’ so Pakistan could produce raw materials for medicines,” he said, adding that this initiative will enable the country to export medicines as well.

Dr Jan says park will increase industry’s capacity, indigenous production of molecules

While replying to a question, Dr Jan said that the location of the Pharma Park was yet to be finalised, but he wanted to allocate a place in the federal capital. “We will encourage the companies to have a joint venture or public-private partnership and establish industrial units. We have contacted some of the friendly countries as well,” he said.

When asked if companies were willing to set up units in Pakistan as a number of them had already left the country, Dr Jan said that the pharma industry had reservations regarding the prices of medicines but he wanted to introduce a mechanism in which companies would not have to face financial losses while the public would also get medicines at affordable rates.

Meeting with British HC

Meanwhile, British High Commissioner to Pakistan Jane Marriott called on the caretaker health minister on Wednesday. During the meeting, it was agreed to enhance collaboration in the health sector and forge closer ties in addressing in myriad challenges in the area, the health ministry said in a statement.

“Welcoming the high commissioner, the minister expressed gratitude for the continued support of the UK in diverse areas of the health sector in Pakistan. In this regard, he made special mention of natural calamities like the earthquake and recent floods; and initiatives like polio eradication. The two sides expressed unanimity of views on issues in the realm of health, climate change and population.

“In the limited time available to us we will make every endeavour to leave a strong health system as a legacy for those to follow. This is an opportune time for system strengthening. Health should be apolitical and for humanity,” said Dr Jan.

“We have established an inter-ministerial forum for effective inter-provincial coordination in the areas of health and population. There is immense potential in the pharma sector in Pakistan. We are encouraging to building a pharma park to increase the capacity of the pharma industry in Pakistan. We must focus on indigenous manufacturing of medicines in the country. This will not only have a positive impact on the country’s economy, but it will also make it possible for people to access medicines at affordable prices,” he said.

“Although Pakistan is manufacturing vaccines there is a need for transfer of technology to enhance capacity and to this end, we are looking forward to collaboration with friendly countries,” he said.

Vaccine equity

Dr Jan laid special emphasis on vaccine equity for low and middle-income countries. “We would like a partnership to ensure free flow of funds to low and middle-income countries in the event of a calamity. We would like a global charter to ensure vaccine allocation to countries in need,” he added.

The minister shared that Pakistan was all set to host the maiden Global Health Security Summit this year in Islamabad, reflecting the strongest commitment at the highest level to the Global Health Security Agenda.

British High Commissioner said the UK-Pakistan partnership was the oldest. “The UK-Pak health partnership that we signed this year is instrumental in forging closer collaboration,” she added.

She extended an invitation to the minister to attend the International Food Security Summit focusing on nutrition being held in the UK on November 20, 2023. The minister accepted the invitation.

Later, the British High Commissioner was given a briefing on Pakistan’s first Unified Heath Management System for infectious diseases, namely the Infectious Diseases Management Information System (IDMIS) established at the Ministry of National Health Services.

Published in Dawn, September 21st, 2023

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