Drug Regulatory Authority of Pakistan (DRAP) is reluctant to give approval of price increase to pharmaceutical companies despite numerous meetings on the subject, disabling the industry to produce life saving drugs and causing shortage in the retail markets, pharmacy outlets and hospitals.
Industry sources said that dozens of medicines with surging cost of imported raw material, utility expenses and packaging cost were being produced by the companies for many years to meet the demands of the patients but now it has become difficult for them to continue with the manufacturing of life-saving and highly prescribed medicines at their production units.
The regulatory authority has failed to finalise a mechanism for upward revision of medicine prices, which have been capped since 2001 though local and multinational companies have given presentation on cost and manufacturing differences due to rising expense of the production. It sums up to a time of almost 12 years that price increase is not granted.
Since 2002, according to published government statistics, there has been a price increase of 215 percent on food items, 153 percent in fuel, 179 percent in electricity & gas, 166 percent in transportation & communication, however, the pharmaceutical manufacturers in Pakistan did not get any increase apart from few hardship cases. On the other hand, the Pakistani Rupee's devaluation against major currencies has also contributed to invigorating the negative outlook for the sector. According to State Bank of Pakistan, USD on 31st December 2001 was 59.09 PKR which is 104.5 today.
The markets have run out of the stock of these drugs, resultantly, consumers at large mainly living in the suburbs of metropolis, small cities and villages could not find required medicines. The suffering of patients are on the rise as complains of unavailability of different medicines have been unheard by the DRAP despite many wholesale associations of drugs and hospitals registering their complaints with the authority concerned about surging shortage of required medicines at the local level.
Stakeholders in the pharmaceutical industry said that drug manufacturers are not being facilitated by the DRAP due to having incompetent staff members at the helm of the affairs that pave the way towards closure of many units and shut down of multinational drug producing companies in the country. More multinational plants have reached on the verge of collapse as these are being run in losses whereas authorities concerned have adopted rigid attitude towards upward revision of prices on medicines.
"There are some 600 companies in Pakistan out of which 22 are foreign, while 4 foreign firms left the country due to inconsistent and ad hoc policies," sources said, adding that inconsistent policies are discouraging further investment by pharmaceutical manufacturers in the country.
They urged Saira Afzal Tarar, Minister of State for the Ministry of National Health Services, Regulation & Co-ordination to take notice of crisis situation in pharmaceutical industry in order to resume the production of medicines. Ministry should honour its promises to bring reforms in DRAP and appoint competent staff members having sound financial and technical knowledge of pharmaceutical sector, they said.