Dear Colleagues!  This is Asrar Qureshi’s Blog Post #609 for Pharma Veterans. Pharma Veterans welcome sharing of knowledge and wisdom by Veterans for the benefit of Community at large. Pharma Veterans Blog is published by Asrar Qureshi onWordPress, the top blog site. Please email to for publishing your contributions here.

Opening Note

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.


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.

  • In-Licensing – As briefly mentioned under BD, in-licensing is the process in which the entire marketing rights are acquired from the previous owner. Several variations are possible: acquiring at the early, preclinical stage; acquiring at pre-commercialization stage; acquiring after commercialization; or any stage in between. Some years ago, Martin Dow acquired rights of several brands of Roche for Pakistan market. The products are manufactured and marketed in Pakistan by Martin Dow. More recently, Martin Dow acquired Merck Marker plant and brands for Pakistan market. Younus Brothers group acquired brands of ICI with the right to manufacture and market in Pakistan. Sanofi sold their business, plant and brands to a group led by Syed Babar Ali. CCL in-licensed anti-anxiety drug Stresam from Biocodex, France over twenty years ago.  Even before that, Highnoon started off by in-licensing products from Solvay and Duphar, and later added more products. Things are happening, but these are limited to Pakistan market, and these are very few instances in a rather large market.

In-licensing is a good opportunity window, particularly so for Local Pharma engaged in international business. Several companies now have financial and marketing muscle needed for such ventures. Pakistan Pharma companies should go ahead and raise the bar for themselves.

  1. Mergers & Acquisitions – M&A had had the most significant impact on many industries. Internationally, Pharma industry has seen major M&As. In the year 2000, I purchased a book on ‘Pharmaceutical Marketing’ by John Glidden. Even today, marketing books on Pharma industry are not available. Glidden predicted that in the next ten years, there would be so many M&As that only twenty large Pharma companies would remain. His prediction was only partially true; there are many more than twenty Pharma companies internationally. However, M&As are continuing.

Pakistan Pharma is still not willing to get into that process. The few acquisitions done are more like buying a sick unit which is not running. Genix Pharma Karachi acquired Daneen Pharma in Lahore but are keeping it as a separate company. There are no examples of mergers to date. Our entrepreneurs prefer to ‘own’ rather than ‘share’, and they would like their own shops even if they are not doing well.

The main reason for not going for mergers is that none of our businesses are transparent. Plenty of things in our businesses are out of books and unrecorded. Mergers and acquisitions require correct valuation and due diligence, both of which are not workable for our businesses. In the absence of these processes, M&A is not possible.

M&As offer big window of opportunity for Local Pharma. Joining resources together will increase the capability, reduce resource requirement, and increase profitability.

  1. Going Public – Highnoon, Ferozesons, and Searle are probably the only public limited Pharma companies in Pakistan. Even very large size companies are not considering going public. The reasons for this are the same as mentioned under above points: desire to own, out-of-books transactions, tax evasion, manufactured audit reports and inability to carry out due diligence and valuation.

Local Pharma is missing out on huge benefits by not going public.

  1. Most companies are indebted to banks and feel okay with it. The building and equipment are used as collateral to get financial limits from banks. These limits are then used to buy materials, lease vehicles, and lease more equipment when needed. A major portion of the income is used for debt-servicing which leaves not enough for doing other things. Raising money though going public shall improve financial capability and strength.
    1. Growing companies are always struggling with money. Whatever they earn is spent on expansion, buying more materials, raising more teams and so on. Many things cannot be done due to financial constraints. Going public can bring greater financial strength and capability.
    1. Most organizations are being run with poor, shabby systems. The owners are businessmen but not capable of running sophisticated organizations like Pharma. Going public would bring a proper board which will comprise of more capable people. The management will either become more professional or replaced by professional people who would be answerable to the board.
    1. Personal or family ownership means that the management practices shall remain the same even with the next generation. The perpetuation of continuity means that the best practices shall not come into the organization. Going public will open the opportunity to adopt best practices.
    1. Long term sustenance of the organization is ensured. There have been instances where due to early demise of the owner, the organization suffered heavily and did not recover. Going public will ensure long-term sustenance of the organization beyond the life on one generation.
  2. Selling Shares Privately – Another variation can be to find private investors and sell shares to them. This is not an easy route because our investors are ruthless and our entrepreneurs are not straightforward, and cheating is the order of the day in business. Having said that, it still workable by finding right partners and keeping straight, and it can help reinforce capability.
  3. Contract Manufacturing – In many countries, manufacturers and marketers have become separate. The manufacturers are focusing on greater manufacturing capability and capacity, and the marketers are using all resources for marketing. Unfortunately, our regulators do not agree to this model. They have refused to grant permission to marketing companies, and their contract manufacturing policies issued from time to time have multiple conditions. There are few hundred marketing companies in Pharma now, but DRAP does not wish to see the elephant in the room. The business of marketing companies is uncontrolled and unregulated and been here for about twenty years. It is a classic case of deliberate ignorance from a government department who would not like to make policies based on market realities, but stick to their own closed thinking

PPMA – Pakistan Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Association represents Local Pharma Manufacturers only. Pharma Marketing companies do not have any representation anywhere. PPMA member companies are selling to Marketing companies, in fact, many small companies survive only due to Marketing companies. However, PPMA is not interested in supporting the cause of Marketing companies.

Separation of Marketing companies from Manufacturing companies will be a positive step for the industry and should be pursued.

To be Continued……

Disclaimer. Most pictures in these blogs are taken from Google Images which does not show anyone’s copyright claim. However, if any such claim is presented, we shall remove the image with suitable regrets.

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