LAHORE: A joint protest was held by scores of pharmacists and lawyers from the Pakistan Young Pharmacist Association and Pakistan Drug Lawyers Forum in front of the Lahore Press Club.
Drug Lawyers Forum President Dr Noor Muhammad Mahar said that more than 4,000 poor patients died on a daily basis due to the sky high prices of cancer and hepatitis medicines. Dr Mahar asked former federal interior minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali to explain whether he was involved in creating a shortage of cancer and hepatitis medicines in Pakistan.
He added Federal Minister for Health Saira Afzal Tarar, Health Secretary Sheikh Ayub and DRAP CEO Aslam Afghani blocked the registration and availability of economical medicines in Pakistan. Dr Noor claimed Chaudhry Nisar’s company was selling these medicines at high prices.
Dr. Mahar further said that the retail price of cancer medicine Nexavar was Rs232,800 in Pakistan, whereas the same drug was being sold for the equivalent of Pakistani Rs10,000 in India from the same company and brand.
He said this fact was highlighted by Federal Drug Inspector Dr Obaid Ali in Karachi, who was later posted as an officer on special duty. “A Pakistani company applied for registration of Sofosbuvir tablets, a drug for the treatment of hepatitis, at Rs40 per tablet, whereas Nisar’s company did the same at Rs1,956 per tablet.
On the written complaint of Federal Health Ministry and Drug Regulatory Authority of Pakistan, two FIR’s were registered by FIA, a subordinate agency of the interior ministry, against the company which applied Sofosbuvir at Rs40 per tablet.
It is pertinent to mention here that the Pakistani company ran successful multi-centric clinical trials and got better results than the tablets of Nisar’s unit.
Later the Health Ministry and DRAP gave approval to an Indian company to supply Daclatasvir at exorbitant prices in Pakistan without any registration. It was stated that the Pakistani registration of Rs.18 per tablet was blocked and an estimated Rs6 billion in foreign exchange was sent to India for the illegal import of Daclatasvir tablets. Irfan Tarar, husband of Saira Tarar, is posted as the Minister for Trade in India. “That is the reason Saira Tarar is desperate to block Pakistani companies and import medicines from Indian companies. Again, the registration of Ledipasvir was given at Rs1,050 per tablet to Nisar’s company even when he was not on the cabinet. At the same time, the registration of a Pakistani company at Rs75 per tablet was not only blocked, but two FIRs were registered against it with the FIA,” one of the doctors highlighted.
He said there is almost Rs25 billion of annual corruption in the Federal Health Ministry and Drug Regulatory Authority of Pakistan and that too in the medicine sector alone.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 29th, 2017.
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