PHARMACEUTICAL INDUSTRY: FRAUGHT WITH THE INHUMANE COMMERCIAL MOTIVES

DR.S.M.ALAM
Oct 27 - Nov 02, 2008

Pharmaceutical industry plays a vital role and is doing well in addressing the general health issues of the masses of the country. On one hand it serves the cause of human health and on the other it contributes significantly towards the economy of the country. Role of pharmaceutical industry cannot be negated in any country, especially in Pakistan, where health issues are often affected by diverse cultural requirements, preconceived notions, home remedies etc. In terms of revenue collection and employment it is preceded by none other than textile sector in Pakistan and as far as health issues are concerned, about 90% of medicines consumed in Pakistan are being processed or manufactured in all the four provinces including Azad Kashmir of the country.

In 1993, there were 256 national pharmaceutical units and 38 multinational companies. Currently, there are about 411 local companies and 30 multinational engaged in manufacturing a large number of medicines to look after the millions of people. There are about 65000 pharmacies selling medicines to patients in the urban as well as rural areas of the country. Pakistan's per capita spending on medicine is about Rs.500, which amounts to about 1% of per capita income. As a larger provider of jobs to over 70,000 personnel and twice as many in the marketing, distribution and allied fields, it can become a major player in the national economic development. The pharmaceutical market of pharmaceutical industry is expanding at the rate of 20% annually, but half of the population has no access to modern medicines.

Pakistan has rich resources, which can be used for production of pharmaceutical raw materials both for domestic consumption and for export market. It has been noticed that the prices of medicines are very high in the country. To promote sale of their medicines, pharmaceutical manufacturers or traders who import medicines from outside of the country please doctors through commissions and other pay offs. Besides companies spend lavishly on conferences, seminars and symposia in order to market their formulas. Subsequently, all costs submerge in the end price increase of medicines. Doctors are equally responsible of surging medicines prices. The medical stores sell what the doctor write in the prescriptions. Ministry of health is the supreme authority in the country of setting prices of pharmaceutical products.

There is a need to produce drug based on slaughter house waste such as plasma substitutes, insulin, pituitary extract, codein, papaverine, isaphagula herbs etc. Production of fermentation products, inorganic drugs such as aluminum gel, allapulgite, ferrous salts, kaolin are also necessary.

Pakistan has attained a high degree of self-sufficiency in the formulation and packaging of finished pharmaceutical products, the basic manufacturing of ingredients is very small. About 90 percent of active ingredients are imported. China has long been a cost effective supplier of medical ingredients for Pakistan's pharmaceutical industry. Pakistan imports probably 30-40 per cent finished products from various countries.

Pakistan needs to develop capacity for the essential ingredients especially where local resources are available. The key elements of the 25 action plan for the development sector include: introduction of diploma course in pharmacy technology in the faculties of pharmacy, establishment in each province of a fully equipped laboratory to undertake basic research in the field of pharmaceutical drugs and medicine for disease prevention, establishment of research and development centres in pharmaceutical and drugs discovery and experimental therapeutics, establishment of testing/certifying laboratories for fabrication and manufacturing of basic equipment required in pharmaceutical industry. Pakistan is among the major exporters of raw herbs and medicinal plants. However, most of these plants are exported without any quality, standards and at very low prices.

In human health, the HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) creates fever, headache, sore throat, swollen lymph gland, diarrhea, weight loss, fever, cough, and shortness of breath, distorted vision, white spots, unusual lesions on tongue or in mouth.

Indeed serious efforts are required by the government to build up the pharmaceutical industry as an important source of export earnings. Production of hypo chemical drugs such as opium derivatives, morphine and resourceful plants need to be cultivated and standardized on scientific grounds. Stress is also required on the work of Unani medicines on the basis of work done in China and India. Medicinal plants are available on large scale on the northern areas which can be explored easily in collaboration of the forest department.

The life saving professions of health services have been fraught with the inhumane commercial motives. Ministry of health should pay heed to suggestions which are in favor of masses and must put right anomalies of price structure of pharmaceuticals.