It is hard to believe that Bangladesh, separated from Pakistan in 1971, has been able to export medicines worth $249 million in the fiscal year 2015-2016 while during the same period Pakistan exported medicines only worth $103.03 million. The Bangladesh industry also has growth opportunities in the international domain, enough to emerge as the next thrust sector after garments and is all set to capitalize on the trend to penetrate markets in the US, Germany, France, the UK and Japan.

It is unfortunate that despite immense potential, the Pakistani pharmaceutical industry cannot come close to Bangladesh. This is because DRAP has imposed huge fees on documenting medicines for exports, apart from a number of irrational restrictions. The callous and uncompromising attitude of DRAP is the main hurdle. The time has come for DRAP to take measures to strengthen the industry and go through the process of allowing the third party contract manufacturing, certifying itself with WHO or Pharmaceutical Inspections Convention Scheme (PICS) and withdraw the highest slabs of duties and sales tax on pharma manufacturing, HVAC, clean rooms and QC equipment which is non-comprehensible and encourage capacity expansion (CAPEX) for enhancement of quality and quantity of production. In short, the current DRAP policy requires complete overhauling. In comparison, our neighboring countries are already way ahead in pharma exports and are allowing heavy incentives on CAPEX for new investments.

It goes without saying that discouraging the global practice of contract manufacturing is creating unnecessary hurdles, especially for the pharmaceutical companies in Pakistan and causing shortage of low-priced medicines. The continuation of this policy will further slow down the availability of lifesaving drugs which are already diminishing due to pricing issues. Companies have reduced the production of many important life saving drugs because they are incurring losses. The restriction from DRAP on Contract Manufacturing will further burden the companies.

The government agencies need to realize that pharmaceutical exports cannot increase until all relevant issues including pricing are resolved. The government offers the pharmaceutical companies to export medicines at a price of their choice but this is clearly not feasible as international buyers will always ask for local prices.

It’s time for DRAP to fashion a fresh policy so that our medicine exports are boosted.

KASHIF MUSTAFA QADRI,

Karachi, July 10.