SHC scraps tender to buy costly hepatitis medicine from MNCs

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The Sindh High Court on Thursday overthrew the decision by the provincial health authorities to purchase costly hepatitis vaccine from two multinational companies depriving local pharma companies of level-playing ground.

A single bench of the SHC comprising Justice Mohammad Shafi Siddiqui who had reserved judgment on March 6, while announcing the judgment on Saturday, termed the process of purchase of medicines illegal, unlawful and without legal grounds; scrapping the tender issued for purchase of medicine worth Rs 250 million.

The detailed judgment came on a petition filed by various local pharmaceutical firms including Getz Pharma against the rejection of their products used for the treatment of Hepatitis B and C. Earlier, the court had rejected the plea by the health department for partial purchase of hepatitis vaccine from multinationals on the grounds that the court was hearing the case on a priority basis, therefore, limited purchase could not be allowed.

The health authorities had pleaded to relax the stay order on the purchase of vaccine so that 25 per cent of medicines costing around Rs 60.2 million could be bought for 33,000 patients of whom some 1,800 were at terminal stage.

The counsel for the petitioners, who included Advocates Faisal Siddiqui, Shahid Memon and Abdus Sattar Pirzada, told the court that the government was playing games with mala fide intentions to benefit certain influential causing great losses to public exchequer and interest of poor hepatitis patients.

They questioned as to why many leading health institutions including government of Balochistan and the government of AJK had been purchasing and using the locally produced medicines for decades with no complaints if they were harmful to human health.

The counsel further argued that the government had issued licenses to the pharmaceutical firms to produce the vaccine allowing it to sell the medicine in local market as well as to export it.

They said one of the vaccines rejected on quality grounds was the largest selling vaccine in the country and it was produced by Getz Pharma which was the only one in Pakistan having WHO recognition for its laboratory. The counsel said the government officials continued to misguide government, masses and the court for their ulterior motives to buy costly medicine from two multinationals Roche and Schering.