Covid 19, National News

Pharma industry in turmoil due to COVID-19 lockdown

KASUR: The pharmaceutical industry, among other industries, is facing a host of issues due to the lockdown, including a halt in supply of chemicals called Active Pharmaceutical Ingredients (APIs) from China, Europe and India, closure of allied industry, shortage of labour and a drastic rise in the rate of dollar.

Over a dozen pharmaceutical units in Kasur had been shut down, while scores of others were locked in other parts of the country for want of APIs. Resultantly, shortage of medicines and surgical drugs has started looming over the local market, while whole salers and retailers were allegedly creating artificial shortage.

The Pakistan Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Association (PPMA) north zone claimed that the lockdown had forced a significant number of manufacturing units in Lahore, Karachi and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa to close down and apprehended that the entire industry was likely to come to a halt if the situation persisted.

According to Dr Muhammad Shahzad, the owner of a manufacturing unit, the country could face hardships in fighting diseases other than Covid-19 due to a shortage of drugs and high prices.

He said 95 per cent of the industry was based on imports. “We depend on China, India, Europe and Canada for APIs,” he added.

He further said that these countries themselves were a victim of the pandemic, adding that airports, ports and borders of these countries had been closed for any kind of transport.

PPMA Chairman Dr Muhammad Uzair Nagra said although the pharmaceutical industry had an inventory to last 30 to 60 days, medicines such as Azithromycin, used by some doctors to treat Covid-19 patients, were short in the market for the last few days. He warned that the situation could worsen.

An official of the health department, requesting anonymity, said that all public health facilities, including district and tehsil head-quarters, basic health units and rural health centres, had a stock of only two months, as the fiscal year ended in June -stock will end and tenders would be invited for new supply.

Wholesalers and retailers said that the allied industry manufacturing bottles, cartons, wrappers, had been closed after the lockdown. They said that the situation was affecting the pharmaceutical industry as the supply of medicines was not possible without these items.

They also said that imposition of a lockdown in letter and spirit had not only rendered scores of labourers jobless, but also landed the industry in hot waters due to shortage of manpower.

Retailer Sharafat Ali said thatsurgical items and clinical gadgets that were mostly imported from China were not available in the market due to closure of borders.

He added that at least three units of infusion (drip) had been closed for want of raw material.

PPMA Chairman Mr Nagra said that the industry was already under pressure due to the rising US dollar rate and the gas and electricity price hike, but the current situation had brought the industry on the verge of a standstill.

He also said that the manufacturers stood by the government to serve the masses. “The government ought to take rapid and serious steps for the survival of the industry that was heading towards a collapse,” he added.

-Courtesy by DAWN

April 8, 2020

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