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Health adviser demands Pharma sector ‘to do more’

ISLAMABAD: Adviser to the Prime Minister on Commerce, Abdul Razak Dawood promised to provide unbounded support to Pharma Sector. He further said that government has been committed to increase the country’s exports by removing all obstacles and assured the entrepreneurs about government’s support.

Speaking at the 5th Pharma Summit organised by the Pakistan Pharmaceutical Manufacturers’ Association (PPMA), Abdul Razzak said that government was “very keen” to add pharma sector to the list of sectors with greatest export potential.

The theme of the summit was ‘Mastering Innate Strengths and Acquiring New Capabilities’.

Abdul Razzak said that the increase of pharmaceutical exports from $300 million to 2 billion, was very much in line with the government’s export initiative and the results will appear in the foreseeable future. “Special focus has also being given to increase export volume through tariff rationalisation, trade-related investment, institutional reforms and easing of business regulations,” he added.

A special pharmaceutical export promotion committee has also been set up to encourage production and export of medicines and medical products.

Mr Dawood highlighted that textile was leading export of the country in the past but now new sectors, including pharmaceutical, has been identified to enhance the country’s exports. He stressed that Pharmaceutical industry was very important for Pakistan and strategy was being developed to reform it for enhancing medicines exports.

Razzak shared that African countries had around 1.3 billion population with $2.7 trillion GDP (Gross Domestic Product) and the government also wanted to double trade with them in the next five years. He urged the pharmaceutical sector to look towards African countries for export prospects.

Special Assistant to Prime Minister (SAPM) Dr Zafar Mirza also spoke to the summit, asking pharmaceutical industry to do more. His demand to stop the pursuits of price increase offended the industry professionals.

Dr Mirza said, “I believe that every person should have access to life-saving medicines. So pharmaceutical industry, while demanding increase in prices, should also keep in mind the underprivileged segment of the society.”

The special assistant regretted that in Pakistan, pharmaceutical industry had not progressed as much as it should have, creating a lot of issues in the health sector. “They have yet to champion a cause to ensure access to medicine by a common man as only government is providing that support. There exists a trust deficit as well as lack of consistency,” Mirza told.

“There is a general perception that pharmaceutical industry sells medicines at very high prices and earns good profit, something which is being discussed at social gatherings. It is time that we find middle ground and create sensitivity in the pharma industry. Pharma should adopt a community centric approach so the government would start thinking about the companies and vice versa,” Zafar said.

Interest groups are present and they have no national interest whereas we want pharma to grow but at the same time meet National requirements.

Dr Mirza said the draft of national medicine policy has been prepared and would be launched in the next two weeks. “Efforts were also being made to appoint competent people on the regulatory authority,” he highlighted. However, he said that reality has hit him in the form of bottlenecks as everything is proving to be very difficult to improve.

The only positive thing highlighted by SAPM about the pharma was that pricing regime that needed to be regulated for essential drugs only and rest leave to market forces.

Asim Rauf CEO (Chief Executive Officer) DRAP also spoke on the occasion and assured that the “Pharma sector is a vital segment in Pakistan.” He said that DRAP has also opened its doors and invited regulators from the international bodies like FDA & WHO to get their audit done.

He assured that there would be complete transparency in DRAP by June 2020 and “this audit by international regulators is to encourage exports and the industry will find DRAP to be very export conducive. In the very near future the industry will be able to apply for the registrations online and there would be no need to visit at all.”

Earlier, in his opening remarks, PPMA Chairman Mian Zakaur Rehman said Pakistan had the strongest pharmaceutical industry in all Muslim countries and 98pc of the country’s requirement were being fulfilled locally.

The pharma sector has witnessed 20pc growth in last two years, he said, “we can fulfil the requirement of whole region as Allah Almighty has blessed us with raw materials being used in manufacturing of medicines”.

PPMA Chairman said there were tremendous opportunities for the pharma sector to export their products in African countries.

Mr Rehman said the summit would discuss in detail issues related to functioning, regulation, control, growth, and advancement of the Pakistani pharmaceutical industry.

Former State Minister, Tariq Ikram said Pakistan had rich potential to export pharma products. “The current export volume of pharma sector could easily be enhanced to $5.4 billion from $300 million,” he added.

MN Report

February 20, 2020

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