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Continued from Previous……
Lockdown of this scale is a new experience for the whole world. The responses therefore are coming in jerks and starts. I urge that the government and private sector should not be criticized for inactions or incorrect actions. Things are getting better over time. We all pray that the pandemic is over soon. The recovery will be a long process with many casualties on the way.
Pharma Industry may be considered as a less-affected industry, if not the least affected. Right from the beginning, Pharma companies were exempted from restrictions of lockdown. Gradually, the allied industries also received exemptions.
What has been the response from Pharma Industry?
Collective response has not come. If we may recall disasters like earthquake of 2005, the industry did respond as a community and arranged medicines and donations. The difference was that at that time, the industry itself did not feel at stake. But at this time, every business is worried about its existence. Pharma Industry is no exception.
Pakistan Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Association (PPMA) is the representative body of Local Pharma companies. PPMA became active immediately and negotiated with government departments to protect its interests as best as it could. They were able to achieve the following:
- Relaxation to continue working – the relaxation applied to its entire staff and operations
- Relaxation for allied industries to work – the relaxation applied to printing and packaging industries
- Relaxation for allied services to work – the relaxation applied to logistics and transport services
- Relaxation to import materials – the relaxation applied to raw materials and other imported components which are mostly imported from India and China. However, this relaxation has given limited benefit due to following reasons:
- Indian government restricted export of pharmaceutical raw materials till 14 April. It will have to be seen if it will be extended or lifted
- China was first closed for New Lunar Year holidays. The holidays extended into lockdown due to COVID19. Finally, China started some shipments, but then our airports were closed. The issue of imports is as yet unresolved
- Europe had stopped manufacturing of Pharmaceutical raw materials long time back. Currently, only some selected materials are available from Europe and are considerably more expensive. However, Europe is also locked down
- Several high-tech and biological medicines are imported as finished products from US, Europe, China, Korea, and India. The availability is uncertain as of now and for near future
- Staff of Pharma companies can move with company identification. It means Sales Team can also work. This relaxation also has limited benefit because hospitals are working on limited scale and private clinics are closed. The only way to keep in touch with customers is through social media or messages. The companies are making use of these media, but it is already getting too much and has started looking like overt publicity.
- Relaxation to export – on a very limited scale, effort is underway to export to couple of destinations
- Release of held-up rebates etc. – it will help cover the finance deficit, but it will be selective, insufficient and inadequate
Pharma leaders, the CEOs, like other business leaders, have not commented on the current situation. They have not come up with any public support program either. As mentioned earlier, their entire effort is focused on protecting industry interests.
Pharmacy-related business response has been as usual callous and insensitive. Stocks of masks, gloves, sanitizers, forehead thermometers, temperature scanning guns were first taken out of view and then sold at exorbitant prices. Similar activity was done with the so-called treatment options like chloroquine, hydroxychloroquine, azithromycin etc.
Corona Virus Pandemic is nothing like our world had seen before. It is a calamity of colossal scale which has not spared a single human on the face of earth. There are those who are suffering directly after contracting the disease, while everyone else is gripped with fear, apprehension, uncertainty and doom. Most of the people still hope to survive even after falling to COVID19 disease, but the world will not be the same.
Economy is constantly draining, and it is not clear at what point it would be when pandemic is cleared, and recovery starts.
Family relations are getting frayed and households will be restructured leaving people emotionally broken and psychologically bruised.
Social relations are being re-examined and shall be redefined as we come out of it. The social fabric will change in many ways.
Belief systems are under upheaval. All over the world, people are returning to religious thoughts and prayers. It is neither resurgence of religious movement, nor a wholesale migration of non-believers to the camp of believers. It is an extreme stress situation. Those who already believe and practice their belief are submitting to God even more fervently. They are asking for forgiveness and praying for the Benevolence of Almighty. Those who believe but do not follow the Commands of Almighty are still trying to keep both reconciled somehow. They are still profiteering, stealing from the poor, usurping the right of deserving people and also trying to do something noble to balance it out. The passion to gain is still much stronger than the desire to give, making the balance awkwardly tilted towards self-interest. Those who don’t believe are not yet pushed to review their beliefs. Personal orientations about religion, beliefs, and spirituality will see further changes as the pandemic expands and then shrinks leaving behind casualties of all kinds.
With specific reference to our society, the question may be asked, what are we waiting for to stop looting, profiteering, hoarding, hurting and killing? Should something bigger be sent to convince us? If it comes, will it be warning or endgame?
Allah is Kind and Benevolent beyond measure, but He does not change the Principles of nature.