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February 2022 marks my completing 47 years of working in Pharma Industry. Allah be praised. I am still working. The first half of my working career was spent in Multinational companies, and the latter half in the Local Pharma, making me well-versed with both innovators and generics markets. I also had the opportunity to work in business as well as operations.
My journey of near half century is also the journey of Pharma Industry in Pakistan. Great changes have occurred in this time and a lot could be written about it. In my blogs, which were started about four and a half years ago, I have covered several topics related to Pakistan Pharma Industry. This multi-part series shall do and review the SWOT – Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats – of the Pharma Industry.
Stakeholders 7 – Pharmacies
Pharmacy Chains was a new phenomenon which started about 20 years ago. Clinix were the pioneer as far as I remember. They were a new entrant who made the first pharmacy and then started branching out. Their pharmacies were upscale, and people accepted them quickly because they promoted assurance of genuine quality. In Pakistan, the question of fake medicines keeps hanging around. The most irresponsible comment came a few years back from the then Head of Transparency International, Mr. Gillani, who claimed that 80% medicines on Pakistan market were fake. It was not based on any survey, but just a comment. Reality is, that barring a few culprits, pharmacies are selling genuine medicines. The problem may be variable quality by different manufacturers, but the responsibility for it lies with DRAP, not with the pharmacies.
Clinix model was copied by several others, and we now see several chain pharmacies. The trend is popular in Punjab and Islamabad, but not in Karachi, Peshawar, and Quetta. Pharmacy franchise was also introduced meanwhile, and the lead came from Clinix again. Today, Clinix franchise costs a hefty upfront fee followed by the commitment to buy only from Clinix central stores, through which the franchiser recovers royalty.
The pharmacy business has upgraded itself a lot in the last 15-20 years. However, essential gaps remain. One, the pharmacies in central areas in major cities have undergone overhaul, but the situation in peripheral areas within main cities, smaller towns, and villages remains poor and substandard. The pharmacy owners are shopkeepers whose sole objective is to maximize their profit. They keep stock of unknown companies which they buy at heavy discounts and sell it at full price. Apparently, there is nothing illegal about it, but the patient does not get the right value for his money. Two, some pharmacies tend to switch doctor’s prescription. They would tell the patient to go for a cheaper alternative in the guise of being on their side, whereas the fact is that they are looking for their own profit. The practice of switching prescription is unethical and illegal, and it must be curbed. Even the educated patients sometimes fall for such advice which may not be right for them. Three, pharmacies are required by law to hire a pharmacist who should be present there. In reality, most pharmacies do not hire any pharmacist, and those who hire a pharmacist, keep her/him on paper only. They pay a certain amount of money to the pharmacist to get her/his degree for obtaining license, and/or showing as qualified person. The arrangement suits both parties. In peripheral areas and smaller towns, pharmacy owners, in connivance with regulators, flout the rules openly. They do not follow the rules as far as possible. Three, upscale pharmacies are now keeping stocks of imported vitamins and nutritional supplements, which they try to sell to prospective customers. By law, it is not illegal, but it is not fair to the unsuspecting patients that they pay exorbitant prices for undocumented, dubious value.
Sum Up So Far
In the preceding parts, we have looked at seven stakeholders and their interfaces with each other. The purpose was to set the ground for the topic which is written on the top of every post of this series – SWOT Analysis of Pharma Industry. From the next post, we shall start looking at the Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats.
To be Continued……
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