While Bangladesh managed to export medicines worth $249 million in the fiscal year 2015-2016, Pakistan could only export medicines worth $103.03 million. It is unfortunate that despite the immense potential, the Pakistan pharmaceutical industry cannot come close to Bangladesh. This is because the Drug Regulatory Authority of Pakistan (Drap) has imposed huge fees on documenting medicines for exports, apart from a number of irrational restrictions. The callous and uncompromising attitude of Drap is the main hurdle. In short, the current Drap policy requires complete overhauling. Compared to us, the neighboring countries are already way ahead in pharma exports.
It goes without saying that discouraging the global practice of contract manufacturing is creating unnecessary hurdles, especially for the pharmaceutical companies in Pakistan and causing the shortage of low-priced medicines. The continuation of this policy will further slow down the availability of lifesaving drugs that are already short due to pricing issues. Companies have reduced the production of many important life saving drugs because these companies are incurring losses. The government needs to realise that pharmaceutical exports cannot increase until all relevant issues including pricing are resolved. The government offers pharmaceutical companies to export medicines at a price of their choice but this is clearly not feasible as international buyers will always ask for local prices. It is time Drap came up with a fresh policy so that our medicine exports are boosted.
Kashif Mustafa Qadri