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MNCs under threat due to irregular policies
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KARACHI: Pharmaceutical companies in Pakistan are committed to producing quality drugs under the International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers and Associations (IFPMA) Code of Conduct despite pricing and policy constraints.

The executives of Pharma Bureau – representative body of research-based multinational pharmaceutical companies in Pakistan – said this while briefing a group of journalists during a plant visit to one of the production facilities of GSK at SITE Karachi.

“Hygienic and high standard manufacturing practices are mandatory for the pharmaceutical companies and they should not compromise on quality to boost the industry,” they said.

The technical team at GSK plant was of the view that in the pharmaceutical industry quality comes with a price tag as the cost of quality is not just the constituents of a medicine but the plant, manufacturing equipment and environment, transportation (including maintenance of cold chain).

Therefore, to ensure quality drugs, the government must guarantee a smooth pricing and quality mechanism, said officials. It has three manufacturing blocks – liquid block, tablets block and a dedicated penicillin block. Additionally, the site also has a dedicated unit for Iodex. Over 120 SKUs are manufactured at this site, with an annual volume of around 185 million packs. Major products manufactured at this site are Augmentin, Amoxil, Calpol, Zantac and Actifed.

The technical team said that only this facility produces more than 200 million tablets a year which makes it the largest tablet production facility in the country, the procedures and equipment are upgraded regularly. Pharma Bureau officials said that during the last seven years the investment of multinational corporations (MNCs) in Pakistan was in excess of $500 million towards maintaining Current Good Manufacturing Practices (CGMP) as each MNC with a manufacturing facility invests roughly $3.2 million per annum, but sadly, this is declining now.

They said that MNCs alone have 72 drugs that are part of the Essential Drugs List which are at risk of closure, and most of these drugs are market leaders in their categories, some commanding over 90% market share.

The officials added that the policymakers of the country are indifferent to the plight of the industry and are constantly constructing policies for price reduction of drugs despite the fact that this will only encourage low quality manufactures.

Ten years ago, there were 36 MNCs operating in Pakistan, and today there are only 24. The latest company to exit Pakistan is Johnson & Johnson. Their manufacturing facility has been shut down and the product is now imported from Dubai at a higher price.

According to the World Health Organization, approximately 30% of drugs in Pakistan are counterfeit valued at an estimated $88 million. Counterfeiting industry has thrived on account of low cost packaging standards (on accounts of lowering margins) and negligence of the regulators. Not only is this extremely hazardous to the patients but the government as a result stands to lose out on tax revenue on medicines worth $88 million per annum, they added.

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