President of Pakistan Economy Watch, Dr Murtaza Mughal, said on Sunday that driving foreign investors from the country should be stopped as it hurts the masses and the investment climate. Over two dozen pharmaceutical companies have left Pakistan over the last few years. With the closure of the remaining companies, many medicines, including life-saving medicines, will become scarce, he said. Scarcity of medicine always leads to smuggling, and patients end up paying double or triple the price for drugs in the black market, he added.
Dr. Murtaza Mughal said in a statement issued here today that it is an open fact that the product quality of the local pharma industry is not what it should be. Their exports are also limited to a few African countries, while they are kept from entering the European and American markets. Therefore, foreign companies selling quality products in the local market should not be discouraged so that the people can be saved from trouble and they can get quality medicines. He said that local companies should be given a deadline to improve their quality, and foreign companies should be allowed to do business in Pakistan until the quality of locally manufactured medicine is improved.
Dr Murtaza Mughal said that Pakistan is the third-most diabetic country in the world, with almost 26% of adult patients having the condition. However, one American insulin manufacturer is so irritated with Pakistan that it is closing its operations. He warned that a public health crisis is already in the making, while the departure of the US-based multinational company may result in a catastrophic situation.
In such a situation, the authorities have remained unconcerned, which is surprising, he said, adding that the unbridled bureaucracy has forced twenty-six multinational companies to leave the country in a few years, which merits an investigation. If the remaining four multinational companies leave Pakistan, the masses will be at the mercy of those local producers who will happily exploit the consumers. With increasing drug shortages putting more and more lives at risk, the government’s ostrich-like response to drug pricing is puzzling.
He said that this blind spot has existed through successive governments but has now reached catastrophic heights, and the implications of this approach are terrifying.
The absence of a steady availability of medicines at rational prices forces patients to not only buy drugs in the black market at prices well above what local manufacturers are demanding, but they also carry a great risk of consuming medicines that may be spurious, even counterfeit, he said. There seems to be no one to stop the elements from playing with the health sector, as the effectiveness of the regulator of this most important sector is an open secret.