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Dear Pharma Colleagues. This series of Blogs was a summary view of Pharma Business in Pakistan. This series was spread over 30 parts covering the entire spectrum of Pharma business.
Pharma Business – Concluding Comments
When I started writing on this topic, it was not intended to be a series. I was going to write on one particular area of Pharma business, and I realized that one blog post will not be sufficient for the topic. I also understood that I was in a unique position to write about most areas of Pharma business, out of first-hand experience. So, this series was born and grew to become a 30-part series.
It is inappropriate to claim that all that needed to be discussed has been covered here. It is not. There is plenty more to write. We can continue this discussion as replies to questions or comments from the readers.
Pharma business in Pakistan has seen many stages. It has earned a lot of respect, but it has also been vilified and received bashings every now and then.
Pharma business is highly regulated business; from purchase of materials to production to distribution to consumption till the drug is taken or discarded due to expiry. DRAP – Drug Regulatory Authority Pakistan has the responsibility to regulate Pharma business in Pakistan. There are a large number of regulations which have been amended numerous times. There are an even larger number of ‘regulators’ who are assigned to ensure implementation and do monitoring on periodic basis. Like other trades, the regulators have their own ‘interpretation’ of laws and the two regulators may not have the same interpretation.
Successive governments have also mandated it upon themselves to review the Pharma Industry regulations and make some changes, any changes. Healthcare, in the eyes of the government, is limited to the business of drugs only. Hospitals, labs, doctors, clinics, therapists and other healthcare givers are never considered to be regulated. It is a flawed approach because drugs are only one part of Healthcare, a small part actually.
Pharma Industry has also become a household name, though for all the wrong reasons. There are cries of fake medicines, sub-standard medicines, expensive medicines, corrupt practices, corrupting tactics, huge profits and so on. This last element of huge profit attracted many investors and entrepreneurs to get into Pharma business. Most of them lost huge sums of money and ran away or are struggling to survive. They tried to do Pharma business like other businesses; real estate, consumer goods, FMCG, commission services, rice trading, stock exchange and what not. Disregarding whether they succeeded or failed, the body and soul of Pharma business was changed forever. This is not just the story of Pakistan; it is the same scenario all over the world with little bit of variation. The difference in our case is that no one ever gets punished or even penalized here.
Despite these issues, Pharma industry has continued to innovate, improvise, survive, grow and prosper. This resilience is in part due to the fact that medicines cannot be eliminated from life. The demand rather keeps increasing due to increase in life expectancy, decrease in mother and child mortality, more diseases, higher resistance, pollution, stress and new diseases caused due to side effects of medicines. Medicines are here to stay as long as humans stay.
PPMA – Pakistan Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Association is the representative body for Local Pharma; OICCI – Overseas Investors Chamber of Commerce & Industry represents MNCs. Their representation is another topic which could be taken up separately.
Pharma Industry has embraced technology but only in a limited way. Drug research internationally however has become fantastically advanced and is giving more and more novel, precise and targeted therapies. Currently, there is a huge focus and investment on finding therapies for rare diseases. Very recently, Novartis got approval for its Gene Therapy drug ZOLGENSMA for SMA (Spinal Muscular Atrophy). The drug is priced at US$ 2.1 million. It will be given once but the patient will keep paying in installments over five years. The approval of ZOLGENSMA has caused a lot of stir in Pharma market and the race for such kind of highly specialized and selective therapies has further heated up. Money making besides, this and other drugs like this are truly breakthrough therapies.
Pakistan Pharma business always shied away from research. It has gone further away as the generic drugs are now ruling supreme. The new research drugs are not even coming to Pakistan because the multinational companies are finding it hard to survive. Many MNCs have scaled down, divested, sold operations, rolled back and left the country; others are trying to follow. Generic companies in countries like ours are generally averse to spending on R&D.
Generic industry of Pakistan Pharma has achieved a lot for itself. It has taken more than 80% share of Pharma business and has displaced MNCs from many places. It has won the confidence of physicians and patients. Several companies have gone out of country and built big businesses in many countries. They have many challenges as well which they have to tackle.
The overall landscape of Pharma business is interesting and shall remain under discussion one way or the other.