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January 26, 2017

Drug lawyers, pharmacists level charges against officials


January 26, 2017

ISLAMABAD: The Drug Regulatory Authority of Pakistan (Drap) and the Ministry of National Health Services have embezzled the entire registration record of 80,000 medicines to serve their own personal interests, alleged representatives of the Pakistan Young Pharmacists Association (Pypa) and the Pakistan Drug Lawyers Forum (PDLF) here on Wednesday.

Addressing a joint press conference, officials of both Pypa and PDLF carried out scathing criticism of both the Minister of State for Health Saira Afzal Tarar and CEO of Drap Aslam Afghani, who were termed “corrupt and incompetent,” while secretary health Ayub Shaikh won praise for being a “seasoned and honest” officer.

The high-handedness of Drap and the Ministry of Health, Pypa and PDLF officials stated, came to the fore when Justice Abid Aziz Sheikh of the Lahore High Court admitted a writ petition under Section 8 of the Drugs Act 1976 for notification of the National Formulary of Pakistan in the Official Gazette of Pakistan. Notices were issued to Drap and the Ministry of National Health Services for January 26, 2017. “In response of above writ, it was found that DRAP has already embezzled the entire record,” Dr Noor Muhammad Mahar, president of the Pakistan Drug Lawyers Forum maintained.

“Within a month of joining Drap as CEO on February 2, 2015, Aslam Afghani replaced all bad files of Efroze and Otsuka (companies owned by Aslam Afghani) and the Club of 50 with excellent files, and embezzled the entire record. We wrote letters to the President, Prime Minister, Chief Ministers and all law enforcement agencies in April 2015, stating that the records of Drap have been embezzled by Aslam Afghani in connivance by Ghulam Rasool Duttani, Director Registration, Obaidullah Deputy Director (de-facto Registration Board), Sayyad Hussain Deputy Director, Amanullah Director Pricing, Saifullah Khatak Deputy Director, Babar Khan Deputy Director and Muneeb Ahmed Cheema Assistant Director, but till date, no action has been taken against any of the above officials,” Dr Noor stated.

Pypa and PDLF representatives pointed out that DRAP has posted on its website, a letter dated January 3, 2017 (Dy No.657/2016-Reg-IV; signed by Dr Obaidullah, Secretary Registration Board) in which it has asked all its additional directors of peripheral offices to collect data on registration of medicines from private parties. Also posted on the website is a disclaimer which states that DRAP does not have any data of registration of medicines, and that all manufacturers and importers may give data to Drap, which it shall notify in the official gazette of Pakistan.

Dr Haroon Yousaf, general secretary of Pypa, informed the media that Afghani was hired in DRAP after long and cumbersome negotiations between high-ups of the Ministry of Health and Efroze Group in connivance with the Club of 50. “A deal was finalised, under which an amount of Rs500 million and a pharmaceutical factory was to be given to the high-ups of the Ministry of Health. This is why no law enforcement agency can intervene in the unlawful and criminal activities of Drap officials, all of who continue to enjoy immunity,” Dr Haroon alleged.

“Ever since Afghani assumed charge, Pakistan is beset with the twin menace of perpetual shortage of life-saving medicines and a constant increase in prices of medicines. Pakistan’s image has suffered irreparable damage; the country’s exports of medicines have decreased from US $220 million to US $120 million, and imports have increased from US $409 million to US $619 million,” the media was informed by Dr Hina Shaukat, joint secretary of Pypa.

The organisers of the press conference accused Afghani and his team of misguiding the chief minister of Punjab and for destroying the hundreds of years old indigenous herbal industry to get commercial kickbacks. “Afghani registered in import, two of his own herbal companies Otsuka Thailand and Otsuka Indonesia. He registered stents from two inferior sources of China with import price between Rs2,000 to Rs4,000 per stent and is selling a stent for between Rs100,000 to Rs250,000. Another company of a powerful person having godly powers in Pakistan also registered these stents; we cannot take his name,” Pypa’s representative alleged.

“In registering the herbal companies of Afghani, as well as the stents, all laws of the Drug Act have been brutally slaughtered. On a single registration letter dated September 8, 2016 (bearing Registration No. 081738), 11 registrations were granted without mentioning price, which is a violation of sections 7 and 12 of the Drug Act. Although only one medicine can be registered against one registration number, here 11 stents have been given a single registration number. Similarly, the prices of herbal drugs of Otsuka are not fixed under Section 12 of Drug Act. It is important to mention that Otsuka Pharma was never doing any business of herbal medicines and stents before Afghani’s joining of DRAP as its CEO,” Dr Noor alleged.

“The health authorities of Punjab and the chief minister of Punjab have been misguided by Afghani and his team, and a fake mega operation against spurious medicines has been launched. This campaign is actually a way to increase the profits of Otsuka, Efroze, and the Club of 50,” Dr Noor alleged at the press conference.

“Have you forgotten the 292 innocent patients who died at the Punjab Institute of Cardiology, Lahore, in 2012, after administration of Tablet Isotab, which is manufactured by Efroze Pharma, owned by the CEO of Drap,” the YPA official asked the media. “Afghani cannot serve in Drap under sections 18 and 28 of the Drap Act 2012; his appointment is not only illegal, but action must also be taken against all those who have appointed him as CEO of Drap,” Dr Noor stated.

The representatives of Pypa and PDLF urged the Chief Justice of Pakistan, the president, prime minister, chief ministers, governors, cabinet members, and law enforcement agencies of Pakistan to immediately arrest Aslam Afghani and all the above officials and start criminal proceedings against them under the Protection of Pakistan Act by constituting a joint investigation team. “We also call for initiation of the registration and licensing of medicines in the provinces as per the Constitution. Moreover, all herbal medicines and stents of Otsuka Pharma should be deregistered and the billions of rupees looted so far by Otsuka Pharm should be recovered,” they demanded in conclusion.



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