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Why breakthrough drugs are not encouraged in Pakistan?

Published on 25th Aug, Edition 34, 2014


11 million suffer from hepatitis, 120,000 die of diabetes every year in Pakistan

It is shocking to note that over 11 million people suffer from deadly disease of Hepatitis-C while average deaths number are due to diabetes affecting around 120,000 in Pakistan.

Globally, new drugs are coming down the pipeline promising help to patients with serious medical conditions but unfortunately Pakistan is a unique case where several issues put together have incapacitated the potential of pharma companies to launch new drugs and therapies in the domestic market.

Although the government always claims that health and education are on the top priority list yet the ground reality is that the breakthrough medicines, which could have save life of millions are not encouraged by the people sitting at the helm of affairs in the Ministry of Health. It is certainly a serious issue and should be taken up by the government to take care of its people by allowing drugs essentially needed in crucial conditions.

Actually, the quality health care has already gone beyond the reach of average income group who have no choice but to seek remedy from alternative sources like homeopathy, Hakims, and even spiritual remedy, which has open the doors for fake saints and fake doctors.

It is the fundamental right of the people to have an easy access to the breakthrough drugs, which have been introduced internationally after extensive researches.

There is a need to put a ceiling on the fees of the doctors and the hospitals as they are free to raise their charges in the absence of any legal binding on fee structure or any ceiling to keep the medical expenditures within the reach of the common man, there should be a check both on education and health sector regarding fee and charges so that every one could benefit.

A senior official of a local pharmaceutical company requesting anonymity, stated that pharma sector is paying 3 percent of their revenues for central research and development fund for more than a decade now but rather than taking initiatives that are crucial to strengthen this sector, concerned authorities, negligence and lack of understanding for overcoming the pending issues has left pharmaceutical companies unable to launch breakthrough drugs, which are the results of extensive research.
He added that it is impressive to see how continuous research worldwide is changing the quality of life and bringing hope to people but the attitude of Pakistani government has brought disappointment to both the pharmaceutical sector and the patients.

He mentioned that recently US FDA gave green signal to 27 new drugs, for diseases that include Hepatitis-C, breast cancer and multiple sclerosis whereas, the outlook for 2014 is promising as there are chances that pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies could launch as many as 76 new drugs worldwide.


The official said, “imagine what wonders these breakthrough drugs can do for Pakistan. Take the case of Hepatitis-C in Pakistan where nearly 11 million people suffer from this deadly disease. Introducing a promising drug in such a situation can reduce the mortality rate. It can not only accelerate the treatment time but it can also stop the outbreaks in future too.”

Moreover, in a scenario where around 120,000 people die in Pakistan every year as a result of diabetes related complications and many more are being incapacitated, a drug which is expected to be launched by a world renowned pharmaceutical manufacturer in the third quarter of 2014 in US, could provide much needed solution to the diabetes problem in Pakistan.

He regretted that four world renowned international pharmaceuticals, who are racing to launch the promising drugs globally, have already left Pakistan due to irrational pricing mechanism, plethora of pending issues pertaining to licensing and registration and unfriendly policies.

It is worthy to mention that these global giant are working on ‘immunotherapy’ drugs that would use the body’s immune system to fight the cancer.

If the government would have facilitated this sector by providing incentives and formulated prudent policies, Pakistani patients would have benefited from these drugs. But business viability is so bad that these companies are not launching these products in Pakistan, he said.

While commenting on the finalization of pricing policy in the coming months, he said that DRAP may have realized the growth and progress agenda for which it came into being and its the right time for without DRAP’s efficient and effective working these leading pharmaceutical and healthcare companies can not introduce these breakthrough products in our market. He questioned that given the viability of business in Pakistan, why will any company market/launch these drugs and therapies, when it knows that there will be no return on investment despite spending between 15 to 20 percent of the revenue on research and development to introduce the new products?

The official added that pharmaceutical industry is not very optimistic about the upcoming pricing policy as it consider cost plus mechanism, which would require the regulatory body to individually determine the cost structure of nearly 600 manufacturers.

He further added that implementing such a system seems beyond reality and practicality and would lead to pick and choose environment thus culminating the transparency of the system.

He argued that already lowest profitability margins in Pakistan have pushed many locals and multinationals to consider options beyond Pakistan. If the situation continues like this, government will lose pharmaceutical industry, which is serving as a pillar to economic development by creating employment for university graduates (direct, indirect, or induced), trade opportunities (through imports and exports), spending on research and development and technological capacity building.

It is now critical for government to curb the crises that are adversely affecting this sector as industry’s survival is beneficial for the patients.


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