Govt indifferent to pharma innovations

It is globally known fact that pharma sector’s success rests on the innovation but the situation is outright adverse in Pakistan for no new and research-based drugs have been introduced during the last few years.

Industry experts said: “Our R&D is even less than 2 percent of the GDP. It is extremely tragic that the government is continuously ignoring the fact that pharmaceutical innovations are the key to developing robust healthcare system which promises better quality of life for people.”

According to statistics in 2013, only 39 new products have been given approval by FDA in the US, 18 of which have big pharmaceuticals names attached to them. These include breakthrough therapy for Cystic Fibrosis (Kalydeco), a treatment for Drug resistant tuberculosis (Sirturo), treatment for Mantle Cell Lymphoma(MCL) – a rare and aggressive type of blood cancer, drug for HIV-1 treatment, once-daily maintenance treatment of airflows in COPD, a faster treatment for Chronic Hepatitis C, Plavix, which is considered a new aspirin of 21st century and anti-viral drug DRACO, which killed every virus it was tested against including polio, cold, Ebola and swine flu, therefore has the capability to prevent catastrophic pandemics like 1918 Spanish flu outbreaks.

They mentioned that all of these breakthrough drugs, which provide hope to patient with hard to treat diseases,  make way to Pakistani market solely through Multinationals, since the research is done mostly by the parent companies for the poor performance of government, decisions being taken on ad-hocism basis, acute scarcity of resources, high input costs and absence of a sound pharmaceutical policy has limited the local industry’s production outputs and left the sector incapable to come up with their own research based drugs and medicine.”

Experts regretted: “This situation is likely to get worse in the future for lower margins and eroding profitability is pushing the Multinational pharmaceuticals, which introduce all the new and innovative drugs from flu to Hepatitis, cancer and HIV to genetic discoveries in the country, either to hold their investment plans or wind up business, like almost 5 of them calling it a day during last 2-3 years.”

They added that multinationals leaving the scene would mean introduction of new medicines to the local market will come to a halt as locals are unable to bring generics of same thus depriving patients in Pakistan of new research.

Experts further added that this will proliferate the misery of patients and their families, who are already struggling from widening gap in demand and supply of medicines which is filled by smuggled and counterfeit drugs.

They concluded that government needs to realize that research- based pharma industry is not just the matter of physical or mental well-beings of the individuals rather it is pillar to economic development as it contributes to employment (direct, indirect, or induced), trade (through imports and exports), expenditure on research and development (R&D), and technological capacity building. It is also a necessary foundation for the existence of the generic industry.