Experts and stakeholders of pharmaceutical industry on Tuesday advocated for establishing an autonomous drug regulatory authority (DRA) at federal level to regulate, register and fix medicine prices.
They also called for constituting monitoring bodies at provincial level to oversee the functioning of pharmaceutical companies, both national and multinationals, operating in Pakistan but opposed to having separate drug regulatory authorities at provincial level.
The experts and stakeholders further called for introducing hospital pharmacy services at public hospitals in the country, imposing ban on open sale of drugs and medicines at pharmacies and medical stores in the country, and improving medicine procurement rules for the public sector hospitals.
The roundtable discussion on the issue of Drug Regulatory Authority (DRA) was organized by the Pakistan Medical Association (PMA), Sindh, at a local hotel and it was attended by the representatives of Pharma Bureau, Pakistan Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Association (PPMA), Pakistan Islamic Medical Association (PIMA), pharmacists, doctors and representatives of civil society.
Summarizing the discussion on the pharma industry and drugs regulation in Pakistan, Prof. Umer Farooq, the Pro Vice Chancellor of DUHS (Dow University of Health Sciences), advocated for establishing a federal DRA in Pakistan but said that there must be a monitoring mechanism of pharma industry at the provincial level.
He praised the national pharmaceutical industry for its contribution to national economy and bringing down the medicine prices in Pakistan, saying, the element of conspiracy to damage the reputation and exports of Pakistani medicines could not be ruled out.
Prof. Umer Farooq said that public hospitals must introduce clinical pharmacy services, besides there should be strict monitoring of pharmacies being run by uneducated and untrained persons, who use to sell and even prescribe sensitive medicines to common people.
He informed that Dow varsity was the first to set up Institute of Pharmaceutical and Environmental Research where they made available the facility of clinical trials of drugs and the facility of bioequivalence of medicines.
All the participants of the discussion supported the idea of establishing a strong, autonomous and independent drug regulatory authority but said it should be free from political and other pressures and in this regard, models of such authorities could be studied from developed and developing countries.
It was only the Chief Drug Inspector of Sindh, Saleem Isharat, who proposed setting up separate drug regulatory authorities at provincial level, saying, it would divide the workload of a central authority and things would become lot better than accumulating at one place.
He said despite having a central drug authority in Pakistan, there was no uniformity of prices and names of drugs in the country and called for enhancing the role of pharmacists at the hospitals as well as decision-making at health departments.
Dr Badar from Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Centre (JPMC) criticised the drug procurement rules for the public sector hospitals, saying that the procurement authorities were bound to accept the lowest bid, thus compromising on the quality of the medicines.
Dr Ahmed Salman Ghauri of the PIMA said that the stakeholders from the health sector should also be taken on board vis-à-vis the formulation of health policy, health budget as well as regulating the pharmaceutical industry in the country.