Ban on import of Indian medicines lifted – Pakistan

ISLAMABAD: To avoid a serious crisis in relation to the availability of life-saving medicines in the local market, the government has lifted the ban on importing medicines and raw materials from India.

The statutory regulatory orders (SRO) issued by the Ministry of Commerce and Textiles state that the prohibition of trade with India will continue to be effective; however, it would not apply to therapeutic products regulated by the Pakistan Drug Regulatory Authority (Drap).

"The exemption is granted in the best interest of the public and to maintain the supply of drugs to patients," said Special Assistant to the Prime Minister of Health, Dr. Zafar Mirza, while speaking with Sunrise.

The two SROs, signed by the Director General (Commercial Policy) Mohammad Ashraf and available with Sunrise, will be published in the Pakistan Gazette.

It is worth mentioning that after New Delhi's decision to annex Kashmir occupied on August 5, the Pakistani government decided on August 9 to decide to suspend all types of trade with India. Initially, the pharmaceutical industry had asked the government to relax the rules and allow the importation of Indian products before the decision. The government relaxed the rules and the goods that already arrived at the Pakistani airports / seaports had been dispatched.

However, since a large number of medicines and raw materials are imported from India, the industry began to demand that the ban also be lifted. Otherwise, he feared, the country could face the serious crisis of medicines, especially life-saving medicines, in a few weeks.

A Drap official, requesting anonymity, said a meeting had been held last week to discuss the issue. "All interested parties participated in the meeting and informed him that in a few weeks it would be almost impossible to guarantee the availability of medicines because the pharmaceutical industry depends on the medicines and raw material of India," he added.

The official said the meeting was also informed that Indian medicines were available at affordable prices and that medicine prices would increase if the government did not opt ​​for an alternative arrangement.

“We collect all your suggestions and send them to the Ministry of National Health Services, asking decision makers to lift the ban or face criticism from the masses as drug prices rise. The third option for the government was to subsidize medicines, but it seemed difficult given the country's financial situation, ”he said.

On August 17, the Pakistan Employers Federation (EFP) suggested that APIs (active pharmaceutical ingredients) imported from India to manufacture products that save lives by local industry should be allowed on condition that pharmaceutical companies develop alternative sources of API within a period agreed with Drap.

The VET feared that the immediate suspension of trade with India without any guideline would affect pharmaceutical manufacturers and cause a shortage of drugs in Pakistan.

Another Drap official, who requested anonymity, said that several medications or their APIs were imported from India and that, in case of continued ban, there would be a serious drug crisis in the local market. In addition, the official said, the government's decision would result in an increase in drug and API smuggling and loss of revenue in terms of import tariffs on the national treasury.

Posted in Dawn, September 4, 2019



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