Trade Group CEO in Pakistan Resigns in Disgust

Trade Group CEO in Pakistan Resigns in Disgust

February 20th, 2012 // 3:40 pm @

Source: Pharmalot

Over the past month, the Pakistani pharmaceutical industry has been roiled by a scandal in which at least 130 people died after taking a contaminated heart medication. Yesterday, however, the acting chair of the Pakistan Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Association added some drama to the episode by reading a statement at a press conference – and then suddenly crumpling it up and resigning.

“I was pressurised to read this statement, which does not include my input,” said Tariq Ikram, who also withdrew Opal Laboratories, which his family helped to start, from membership in the trade group. “I am done with PPMA. We have to answer to Allah.” Shortly after leaving the stunned room, he offered his real thoughts about what led to the recent disaster to The Express Tribune.

In a rare bit of candor for an industry under siege, Ikram was riled by what he called unchecked pharmaceutical expansion and insufficient government oversight, according to the newspaper. He maintained that up to 40 percent of drugs circulating in Pakistan are questionable and cited various dodgy conditions that, he wrote in a statement, made it possible for the tragedy to occur (back story).

For instance, Ikram noted that between 1947 and 1988, the health ministry issued three manufacturing licenses for drugmakers each year, or 126 in total, but between 1988 and 2011, 580 licenses were issued, at a rate of 26 per year. And the number of manufacturing units rose from 129 in 1988 to 709 in 2011 – an increase of 450 percent.

Meanwhile, the number of provincial drug inspectors across Pakistan was approximately 91 – one inspector per 1.4 factories. By 2011, there 263 inspectors, or one inspector for 2.6 factories. But Ikram also pointed out that the drug regulator is defunct, and inspectors cannot enter factories or inspect the quality of manufacturing there, the paper wrote.

In his statement to the paper, Ikram complained that the many pharma factories that opened over the years did so on the cheap – to save money, there was insufficient investment to build state-of-the-art plants that could meet quality standards. “How do regulators expect such companies to cope with the cost of manufacturing and sales in these inflationary years?” he wrote, according to the paper.

Ikram then complained that corruption allows substandard plants to remain in operation. He cited one example in which a delegation from drugmakers and pharmacists, along with an inspector, raided a pharmacy and caught a handful of allegedly spurious drugs. “No action could be taken against the manufacture due to political intervention,” he tells the paper, adding that the health could cause trouble by generating trumped-up cases.

He also pointed to what he wrote was inadequate training of inspectors, who are underpaid. For instance, he maintained that federal and provincial inspectors have so far not receiving training this year. And a provincial drug inspector in Sindh requires a monthly expense budget that far exceeds what is actually allotted.

At the same time, Ikram blamed the government for registering thousands of pharmacies, most of which he maintained do not comply with the Drug Act 1976. According to the paper, he wrote there were 20,000 registered pharmacies in 1988 and and more than 78,000 today, and only 6,142 pharmacists are registered with the Pharmacy Council of Pakistan.

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