Unable to absorb inflation, many pharmacies halt production of TB drugs

  • Pakistani pharmaceutical firm Schazoo Zaka still producing TB drugs with little or no margin

The stoppage of production of tuberculosis drugs by multinational pharmaceutical companies Novartis AG and Pfizer (Wyeth) in Pakistan has triggered fears of a health crisis, as local companies are unable to meet the market demands because of expensive raw material, Pakistan Today has learnt.

Local and multinational pharmaceuticals firms licenced to produce TB drugs had been highlighting the issue of pricing and high manufacturing costs for the past many years.

A few days back there were only two major contributors of TB drugs, Pfizer (Wyeth) and Schazoo Zaka, as over a dozen manufacturers had already stopped making drugs for TB patients. The reports about Pfizer (Wyeth) and Novartis stopping TB drugs production had stated that Schazoo Zaka – the only national firm with a major contribution towards TB fighting – had also halted production.

Schazoo Zaka Pvt Ltd (SZL) Director Aasia Saail Khan however told Pakistan Today that the firm was still manufacturing TB drugs, adding that despite little margin, the SZL did not halt production of single TB drug like Pyrazinamide and Ethambutol.

She said that in 2008, the SZL built a purpose-built manufacturing facility with a dedicated section for ATB drugs. “The SZL has always worked towards meeting market demands of ATB formulations,” she added.

Aasia said that the manufacturing process of TB drugs was very complicated and expensive and required additional excipient for product stability and special moisture barrier coating, adding that testing of the FDCs process was also difficult which required HPLC and other expensive equipment.

“All major manufacturers of TB drugs have been requesting the Drug Regulatory Authority Pakistan (DRAP) to increase the price margin at least 30 to 35 per cent but their request was ignored,” Aasia said, adding that the government just increased eight per cent margin in February which was discouraging for the manufacturers. She said that in such circumstances when other manufacturers had halted production, the firm had increased production to save lives of TB patients.

“We do have financial constraints however. The active raw material of these products is very expensive, and some of these products are manufactured at a loss. In spite of no or little price increase, we are trying our best to meet the market needs of all products, including first-line therapy, that have little or no margin,” Aasia said.

She further said that the prices of raw materials for TB drugs increased manifold in the last 20 years and so has the cost of production. Because of this increase in cost of manufacturing TB drugs, two well-known pharmaceutical companies had limited their operations related to ATB drugs, she added.