Pharmaceutical firms demand transparent pricing mechanism


Pharma Bureau, a representative body of multinational pharmaceutical companies in Pakistan, has urged the government to implement a transparent and predictable pricing mechanism for the pharmaceutical industry enabling them to forecast future growth, investment whilst continuing to produce quality medicines.
“The existing pricing mechanism in Pakistan is a major hurdle in the way of foreign investment in the country,” co-Chairman Pharma Bureau said. Despite inherent strengths that the Pakistan market offers, many of the major international companies are reluctant to invest in the pharmaceutical sector in Pakistan in the absence of an enabling Regulatory environment, he said.
He pointed out that many of the foreign multinational pharmaceutical brands could not be introduced in Pakistan due to registration, intellectual property protection and pricing issues. “Some multinational companies have even closed their operations in Pakistan in the past five years and some others have suspended their investment levels here,” he said, adding some companies continue to invest aggressively in other emerging markets. Companies that have either divested or scaled down operations are members of Fortune 100 companies and their presence in markets is a testimony of other foreign investors.
“This is very detrimental to Pakistan especially in these difficult economic times for Pakistan”, he noted. He pointed out that the level of regulation coupled with a freeze on drug prices is a very crucial issue for all pharmaceutical manufacturers be they local or multinational, as costs continue to rise on the back of higher energy, local inflation and devaluation of the Pak rupee against US Dollar.
He further stated that many pharmaceutical companies have been supplying medicines despite severe economic hardship to protect patient interest, however, this would not be possible for an interminable period. He said that there is no well known pharmaceutical brand introduced as a result of local Research & Development. Almost all new medicines are developed and introduced by the multinational pharmaceutical companies as a result of their research in the western world. There is no significant investment in research in the local pharmaceutical sector.
He demanded of the DRA to urgently address the issue of pricing and other Regulatory functions to ensure access of existing and new products for the Patients of Pakistan. The pricing policy that had been formulated prior to the devolution of the Ministry of Health in consultation with all stakeholders should be notified without further delay. He pointed out that the multinational pharmaceutical companies are committed to produce quality products under good manufacturing practices. However, he said, the quality is always cost based and cost of doing business is continuously increasing in Pakistan.
On the other hand, he said, irrational pricing of drugs gives opportunity for fake, substandard and smuggled medicines which are putting poor patients’ lives at risk. He said that the same old inconsistent policies along with unethical pricing by the pricing committee is forcing pharmaceutical companies to stop manufacturing the drugs on which they are unable to recover their input costs. “Responsible companies are opting to shut down production of many such drugs,” he added.
He said that some of the imported drugs are being sold at higher price, creating an impression that local drug prices have been increased whereas the fact is since 2001 the government revised prices of only a few medicines whose producers went to the Lahore High Court in 2010. He said that the absence of legitimate profits due to rejection of industry’s plea to allow a reasonable price increase against inflation and heavy increase in input costs is negatively impacting fresh investments in the pharmaceutical sector in Pakistan.
He said that the pharmaceutical sector is the most regulated sector of the country as they cannot even improve packing of their products without prior approval from the concerned authority. He demanded of the government to look into the matter seriously and take necessary measures to resolve in a rational manner the issues that have impeded this critical industry from realizing its full potential both as a provider of quality medicines for the patients of Pakistan and as an exporter of drugs.