Wednesday May 22, 2024

No shortage of medicines likely as Indian firms willing to sell raw material to Pakistan

By M. Waqar Bhatti
March 04, 2019

As more than 50 per cent of raw material for the drugs manufactured in Pakistan is imported from India, the recent warmongering from the Indian side might seem a foreboding sign for the pharmaceutical industry in the country.

Whether someone takes an over-the-counter locally manufactured painkiller to get relief from headache or they are dependent on locally manufactured medicines for the control of blood pressure for the rest of their life, the raw material for these drugs has likely been coming from India, which is now a major trading partner of Pakistan in the pharmaceutical sector as it exports to the country the raw material for drugs along with a large number of medicines and vaccines.

The News tried to answer what will be the repercussions for the Pakistani pharmaceutical industry if a war breaks out between the two countries.

“Such concerns were raised after the Pulwama attack that there could a be a crisis-like situation for the pharmaceutical industry of Pakistan, which is largely dependent on raw material imported from India for drug manufacturing; however, were surprised to learn that Indians are dying to sell their raw material to Pakistan, whether there is war or no war,” the chief executive officer (CEO) of a leading pharmaceutical manufacturing company of Pakistan told The News on Friday.

There are around 700 pharmaceutical companies in Pakistan and almost all of them import their raw material, including pharmaceutical ingredients as well as packaging material, from abroad. More than 50 per cent of the raw material used by the local as well as multinational pharmaceutical companies operating in Pakistan is imported from India, directly or indirectly.

In addition to pharmaceutical raw material, hundreds of Indian drugs are either legally imported or smuggled into Pakistan from land, air or sea routes, said people involved in the pharmaceutical industry.

“Some 20 years back, European and Americans shifted their raw material manufacturing units with technology transfer to India as it became very cost effective for them and now most of the multinational companies in Europe as well as the United States are importing pharmaceutical raw material from India,” said Zahid Saeed, chairman Pakistan Pharmaceutical Manufacturing Association (PPMA).

He added that after the Pulwama attack in Indian-held Kashmir and heightened tensions between the two nuclear armed states, concerns started rising among the pharmaceutical manufacturers in Pakistan as most of the companies imported raw material from India.

“But Indian manufacturers were not reluctant to supply raw material to Pakistan. They have tons of raw material to sell but their only worry was how they would be able to deliver the supplies and what would happen to their payments,” Saeed said, adding that at present the Indian supplies are worried regarding how they would receive payments in case banking channels between Pakistan and India broke down.

The PPMA chairman maintained that they were in constant touch with the Drug Regulatory Authority of Pakistan (DRAP) to ensure that the pharmaceutical industry regularly got raw material for drug manufacturing.

Officials of another leading pharmaceutical company in Pakistan also claimed that Indian firms were ready to supply raw material in case of war and they were offering trade through Dubai, where a third party would be receiving the consignments from India and shipping it to Pakistan while Pakistani buyers would be paying to that third party for the raw material imported from India.

Vaccines imports

Officials of the federal and provincial health departments also confirmed that the supply of Indian vaccines would continue to Pakistan. They said Pakistan imported many vaccines from India which were included in the Extended Program on Immunisation (EPI).

“Almost 50 per cent of the vaccines including measles and Rota Virus vaccines are imported from India while recently we have decided to import typhoid conjugate vaccine from India to contain the Extensively Drug Resistant (XDR) typhoid,” an official of the health department said, adding that the international health agencies including the World Health Organisation (WHO), Unicef and Gavi were making efforts so that Pakistan received required vaccines from the Indian manufacturers.

Around five to 10 per cent of medicines, which are imported or smuggled into Pakistan, are produced by different Indian pharmaceutical companies, drug suppliers said, adding that there could be a little disruption in the smuggling of medicines from India but their import via United Arab Emirates and other countries is likely to continue.