TARIQ AHMED SAEEDI (tariqsaeedi@hotmail.com)
July 27 - Aug 02, 2009

Infringement of intellectual property rights is one the most discouraging factors impeding foreign investment as much in pharmaceutical industry as it is in other industries of Pakistan, whilst multinational pharmaceutical companies still posses unshared authority to manufacture medicines, which have a colossal market share. Within the free market economy, foreign investors are threatened perhaps by not any other thing than freedom with which their ideas are floated without compensation in the host country. Pakistan is one of those countries where pharmaceutical companies have an overstretched demand of provisions protecting IP system. To say that pharmaceutical industry in Pakistan is over-centralized is not baseless as it is the prerogative of federal health ministry to review prices of medicines manufactured and supplied by local and foreign pharmaceutical companies and marketers.

Though as claimed by industry analysts, prices of medicines have been stagnant for a decade, yet this claim is generalized because for some medicines and health services people have been witnessing price upsurge for long. Especially, imported medicines or raw materials become costly directly or indirectly every time government levies regulatory duty on active ingredients. Around 90 percent raw materials used in medicines manufacturing are imported in the country. In budget 2009-10, the government announced some measures to curb the spread of spurious drugs by assigning concessionary tariffs on some pharmaceutical raw materials.


The fashionable trend of social auditing, or due to say, mounting social pressure today pharmaceutical multi national companies are forced to weigh the cost of infringement against cost of losing market share. If public accessibility to cheap health products is ignored, while selling high price medicines or legally restricting usability of formula in low-income economies, then outcome of hugely funded research projects would serve only to a niche community, which in long term poses a danger to expansion of outreach to a larger population. Yet again, should violation of patent be permissible to meet basic human needs for health? A tricky question has already baffled international trade bodies in to figuring out trade rules that can ensure 'balance, fair, and effective' intellectual property system in the wake of widespread viruses that they have realized know no boundary and infiltrate across the border discreetly.

Influenza is such a today's threat to lives on earth. One must hear several cases of human being fallen prey to this viral infection such as swine flu (H1N1) from different nations of the world irrespective of their economic status. China has recently quarantined Briton students on study tour to the country because they were suspected of H1N1 infected. It is a modern virus originated in birds, to this reference also known as pig flu or hog flue and mutated to transmit to human host. The flue is spreading rapidly all over the world because of its extremely contagious characteristic. With substantial health allocation and effective health infrastructure for China, overcoming the spread of the virus will not be difficult and for that matter Britain can also mobilize emergency medicinal programme to rein in the epidemic. Chinese government spent 9.9 percent of total government expenditures on health in 2006. United Kingdom did 16.3 percent. Pakistan health expenditure was only 1.3 percent in that year.

Suppose, danger that looms in China meanders in to its neighbouring country e.g. Pakistan that has a significant urban-rural health inequity ratio, what would be the policy response? Or, perhaps it already has. Can somebody say for sure how many patients who die (naturally) for unknown reason in numerous remote areas of Pakistan would not have suffered from any such deadly infection? Diseases such as H1N1 influenza require specialized laboratory tests, which do not exist in developing countries, claims World Health Organization in its statistics 2009. Most of the developing countries have high mortality rate because of incidence and prevalence of infectious diseases.

Despite that, Pakistan has showed slight improvement in terms of global health indictors e.g. measles administration outreach has improved and immunization programme is moving, though at snail pace, it is still on bottom-line in provision of basic health services to masses. 2,801 cases of measles were reported only in 2007. Immunization coverage among one year old of e.g. DTP3 had increased to 83 percent in 2007 from 61 percent in 2000. It was 54 percent in 1990.

With poor public health services, Pakistan has the highest maternal mortality ratio of 320 per 100,000 live births in the Eastern Mediterranean Region, which comprises Morocco, Tunisia, Iraq, etc. according to World Health Organization classification. Some of the diseases such as polio cannot cause death but it can cost server loss to normal health. The statistics recorded 128570 cases of malaria and 496 of leprosy in Pakistan in 2007. A huge disparity in potable water supply to rural and urban areas exists. Only 40 percent population of rural areas had access to improved drinking water in 2006 in a wide contrast to 90 percent of urban dwellers. The urban-rural sanitation condition also has perceptible difference.

Given the above statistics, there is an utmost need of moulding health sector in conformity with the public needs. Pakistan that highly depends on external financing sources has poor record of expenditures on health sector. In addition, private spending is also significant. According to WHO, out-of-pocket expenditures made at the point of accessing health services aggravate poverty incidence as people are compelled to spend more on medical services. Although availability of medicines is better in private sector, the cost is overarching. Similarly, low priced medicines in public sector may have substandard quality. The report noted median availability of selected essential medicines of 31.3 percent in private sector and 3.3 percent in public health sector of Pakistan during 2001-07. The study found prices of medicine in private sector 2.3 more than international reference price.

Pakistan's emerging pharmaceutical industry offers wage arbitrage to foreign investors. Multinational pharmaceutical companies though quite less in numbers than national companies are enjoying equivalent market share in the country. Negligible allocation of Rs2 billion in research and development in this budget leaves a lot of space for others to invest in medicinal experimentation.