Pakistan’s Pharmacists Warn Against Banning Materials from India

  • "At a time when emergency measures are being taken to deal with the Coronavirus epidemic, the delivery of much-needed medicines to patients is imperative."
  • Pakistan announced in August last year that it would suspend trade with India following the Modi government's unilateral move on Kashmir.
  • An exception was to be granted for lifesaving drugs, but sources showed other drugs were being imported too.

The Pakistan Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Association has warned the government that if raw materials from India are banned, there could be a shortage of medicines in the country. In a statement on Monday, the organization said any such move would hurt efforts to deal with Coronavirus.

Imran Khan is the 22nd and current Prime Minister of Pakistan and the chairman of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI). Before entering politics, Khan was an international cricketer and captain of Pakistan national cricket team, leading the team to the victory in 1992 Cricket World Cup.

“At a time when emergency measures are being taken to deal with the Coronavirus epidemic, the delivery of much-needed medicines to patients is imperative,” said Syed Farooq Bukhari, senior vice chairman of the organization. Pakistan announced in August last year that it would suspend trade with India following the Modi government’s unilateral move on Kashmir.

After that, the pharmaceutical companies in the country had put pressure on the government to lift the ban on their imports. Otherwise, there would be, then as now, danger of severe shortage of life-saving drugs in the country. The government eventually allowed Pakistani companies to do so.

An anonymous source from Pakistan Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Association was quoted as saying:

“However, later all kinds of medicines were imported from India due to which we have been transferring the foreign exchange to India. The government should ensure that the medicines and their raw materials are manufactured in Pakistan as it will allow us to save the precious foreign exchange and ensure export of medicines abroad.”

However, the Young Pharmacists Association in Pakistan alleges that the permission was for cancer and other life-threatening drugs. Instead, pharmaceutical companies imported hundreds of different types of drugs, vitamins, and vaccines under the guise of it. In this regard, the organization has written a letter to the Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on accountability, Shehzad Akbar, requesting an inquiry into the matter.

At the May 5 meeting of the federal cabinet, Prime Minister Imran Khan was informed by the National Health Service that the goods imported from India by pharmaceutical companies in Pakistan included a variety of vitamins and potencies besides BCG, polio and tetanus vaccines. According to reports, the Prime Minister has ordered Special Assistant Shehzad Akbar to investigate the matter.

Kashmir is the northernmost geographical region of the Indian subcontinent. Today, it denotes a larger area that includes the Indian-administered territory of Jammu and Kashmir (which includes the divisions Jammu, Kashmir Valley, and Ladakh), the Pakistani-administered territories of Azad Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan, and Chinese-administered territories of Aksai Chin and the Trans-Karakoram Tract.

The Pakistan Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Association is of the view that the Prime Minister is being misled. According to Zahid Saeed, former Chairman of the Pakistan Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Association:

“Pakistan is importing some finished products including Anti Rabies Vaccine (ARV), Anti Snake Sera, and some vaccines to prevent diseases like Extensively Drug Resistant (XDR) Typhoid and other disease, which are not produced in our country. Similarly, raw material to manufacture many essential drugs is also being imported from India. If these imports are stopped, there would be an extreme shortage of essential drugs in the country.”

He added the medicines that are considered to be the medicine of strength in Pakistan are actually essential to prevent many diseases. “We want to apprise the PM through the media that folic acid is a vitamin which is essentially required by pregnant women. Similarly, vitamin B1 is essential to prevent beriberi disease.”

Zahid Saeed added, “we are willing to switch to Chinese and other manufacturers for the supply of raw material of drugs but it would take at least one year as stability studies of drugs require six months to 1 year.” Until then, the industry should be allowed to import medicines from India. Otherwise, he said, there could be a problem in the country during the Coronavirus epidemic.

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Benedict Kasigara

I have been working as a freelance editor/writer since 2006. My specialist subject is film and television having worked for over 10 years from 2005 during which time I was the editor of the BFI Film and Television.

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