Drugs shortage may intensify as firms halt production.

LAHORE -- The persistent shortage of life-saving medicines across the country may aggravate as 140 pharmaceutical companies have submitted a list of nearly 1,300 drugs (molecules) to the Drug Regulatory Authority Pakistan (Drap) categorically conveying that they have stopped production of these medicines in the prevailing economic crisis.

As many as 100 chief executive officers (CEOs) of the pharmaceutical firms apprised the government about the depressing situation in a high-level meeting held with Finance Minister Ishaq Dar in Islamabad on Tuesday.

Pakistan Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Association (PPMA) Chairman Syed Farooq Bukhari and other members represented the country's pharma industry in the meeting which was called to avert the crisis brewing because of the federal government's policy on imported goods.

Some members of the PPMA told this reporter that the pharmaceutical industry was heavily dependent on the import of raw materials in order to ensure uninterrupted supply of medicines.

140 companies submit list of nearly 1,300 molecules for stopping production

Unfortunately, they said, pharma industry suffered a devastating blow when prices of active ingredients/raw material used in manufacturing of drugs increased exponentially.

Simultaneously, cost of fuel, electricity, freight charges, packing material and exchange rate witnessed an unprecedented increase, resulting in stymieing production.

The PPMA office-bearers said over 500 life-saving medicines had gone scarce countrywide since the government evolved a policy on import of the raw material and other goods.

Following the policy, they said, the State Bank of Pakistan had asked the banks to impose certain restrictions on opening Letters of Credit (LCs) for the import of essential goods, especially raw material.

They said the depressing situation led to the stoppage of production of several medicines in Pakistan due to non-payment in foreign currency, particularly in dollar.

Consequently, the number of medicines [in short supply] increased from 500 to 1,300 when the pharmaceutical industries stopped production as they were unable to make procurement of raw material from other countries due to the massive increase in the dollar rate in Pakistan.

'We held a meeting with Finance Minister Ishad Dar on Tuesday and told him clearly that some 140 pharmaceutical firms decided to stop production of life-saving medicines and...

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