After threat of production halt: Govt to talk to drug manufacturers for uninterrupted supply

M Waqar Bhatti
Wednesday, Feb 08, 2023

ISLAMABAD: Federal Minister for Health Services Abdul Qadir Patel Tuesday said he would negotiate with Pakistani medicine manufacturers in Karachi on Thursday to ensure uninterrupted supply and availability of medicines in the country after the Drug Regulatory Authority (DRAP) confirmed that it has received notices from “around 12 companies”.

“All necessary steps are being taken to ensure provision of medicines to people without any interruption but we would not make any compromise on the prices of medicines. I’m going to meet with leadership of Pakistan Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Association (PPMA) on Thursday in Karachi to ensure uninterrupted supply of medicines to people,” Patel said in a statement after drug manufacturers threatened to halt the production if prices were not reviewed immediately.

DRAP officials confirmed that they had received notices or letters from around 12 pharmaceutical companies, in which they have said that due to massive rupee devaluation against dollar and increase in the prices of utilities, it had become impossible for them to continue production of medicines on the current prices and demanded the government to immediately review the prices of medicines 30 to 40 percent across the board.

But officials in the National Health Services, Regulations and Coordination (NHS,R&C) as well as DRAP said it was not possible for the government to accept the demands of pharmaceutical industry, adding that prices of only a few medicines whose Active Pharmaceutical Ingredient (API) had become costlier could be increased as ‘hardship cases’.

“In the current circumstances, the government will never bow to such black-mailing tactics by the pharmaceutical industry. Yes, there are hardships for the import-based industries but they (pharmaceutical companies) are not incurring an overall loss as being portrayed by them,” an official of the NHS,R&C said, adding that the DRAP had already recommended increase in the prices of around 110 medicines as hardship cases.

Both the Health Ministry and DRAP officials said pharmaceutical industry need to cut down their ‘legal and illegal marketing expenses’ to provide medicines on rational prices to the people, saying that on one hand, these companies are spending hundreds of millions on ‘futile’ conferences by the medical associations while on the other, they also use hundreds of millions to bribe medical professionals for increasing their sales.

On the other hand, PPMA leadership claimed that over 70 pharmaceutical companies had already sent letters to the DRAP in two days (Monday and Tuesday), invoking ‘force majeure’ and added that in the current economic situation, pharmaceutical companies were not in the position to continue producing medicines and supply them on the existing prices.