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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.
SWOT – STRENGTHS
As mentioned in the introduction of SWOT, Strengths and Weaknesses are internal while Opportunities and Threats are external.
Another point to mention is that my focus is mostly on Local Pharma which is dominating the Pharma Industry since many years.
- Persistence – Pakistan Pharma Industry has constantly built itself from scratch and risen to become multi-billion-rupee industry. Persistence has been the major reason for this achievement. The industry persisted in the face of MNCs challenges, Regulators pressures, Government’s unfavorable policies, doctors’ behaviors, and so on. There must have been occasions when the pharma owners would have felt dejected, but they persisted. Their persistence paid off and they are now occupying top ranks.
- Resilience – On the heels of Persistence comes Resilience, which helps to get up after every misstep, failure, and loss. Local Pharma has many such stories. Sometime during 1973, the then federal health minister of PPP government, Sheikh Rashid enforced ‘Generic Drugs’ Policy. It changed the existing market at 180 degrees. Prior to this all companies promoted their brands. Generic policy changed it; the companies were disallowed brands, and they were told to write only the generic name. For example, all paracetamols would sell by the name ‘paracetamol’. There would be no discrimination between manufacturers and products. The spirit of generic policy was good for people as it intended to stop people being exploited due to brand name. The industry did not like it and suffered. The execution of generic policy was not done properly, and it was finally abandoned in 1976. It was replaced by the Drug Act 1976. Pharma Industry went through this period in suffering but came back stronger. It was resilience in practice.
- Ambition – Local Pharma remained contented with the business they had and kept operating at the lower end of the market for long time. Major local companies were doing fairly well by their standard. They had operations all over the country and generated a decent volume. Few of their brands were recognized nationally: Pulmonol from CCL; Eplacherry from Epla; Urodonol from Opal; Combinol from Atco; Neurobedoxine from Schazoo, and so on. However, Local Pharma did not think of encroaching upon MNCs territory. From therapeutic angle, Local Pharma were present largely in short-term, acute-care products like cold and flu, community acquired infections, diarrhea, cough etc., whereas MNCs were mostly present in long-term, chronic-care treatments like diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, psychiatric illnesses etc.
The average life of short-term treatment is 3 – 5 days, while long-term treatment may last for several years. The difference is that the revenue generated by a chronic-care prescription runs many times more than acute-care prescription. This difference created the great chasm between the businesses volume of both groups.
In early 1980s, two changes occurred: one, the Local Pharma tentatively ventured into chronic-care area. They brought generic versions of MNCs’ research products; two, Local Pharma brought generic versions of recent research products. It was an ambitious campaign with the stated purpose of snatching market share from MNCs. Their ambition paid off; the MNCs were taken off-guard, and by the time they realized, the trend change was set into motion.
- Innovation – is the lifeline for any business, and in this area, the Local Pharma beat the MNCs hands down. MNCs were restricted by parent companies to launch only their own research products; Local Pharma had no such restriction. The Ministry of Health during that period was quite pro-Local Pharma, product registrations were granted rapidly, patent consideration was suspended, and within months, Local Pharma was standing face to face with MNCs. It was innovation at its best, and it led to certain cases which should have been converted into case studies. Diclofenac sodium (Voltaren®) was launched by Ciba-Geigy (later Novartis) in late 1970s. They worked hard to sell the concept and the product. Few years later, Ciba was compelled to roll back operations from Pakistan. Sami Pharma quickly jumped in with their generic version ‘Dicloran’ and swept the market. Voltaren came back to find that their space had already been usurped. Bayer could not sell ciprofloxacin (Ciproxin®) in a big way; Sami sold their Novidat in much larger quantities. MSD could not establish their famotidine (Pepcidine®), but Famopsin from HiQ did. MSD established their blood pressure drug Losartan (Cozaar®) at great effort and cost; Werrick came from behind and swept the market with their Eziday.
To be Continued……
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