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February 2022 marked 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.
Taking this analysis further and for better understanding, I shall also club the Opportunities and Threats. Both are related to two domains: Policies, because these may open new avenues or close the existing one; and Market, which is the place where everyone operates.
Policies as Threat – It is interesting to see that there are more threats due to policies rather than opportunities. It is a true reflection of what is happening.
Policies may be divided into two subsets. One, laws and Acts approved by the legislative assemblies; two, SROs issued from time to time.
Laws and Acts are supposed to be made by the assemblies. Majority of members in our assemblies are not educated, the evidence of which was that when the government put up the condition of graduation for candidacy, many members submitted fake degrees. Some of these were later traced, and disqualified, the others might have remained at large. Finally, they got this condition removed. Essentially, it meant that in order to represent people and run the matters of the country, education is not needed. No wonder we are where we are. The minority of members who are educated and are well-versed in legislative matters become too powerful in this situation. They present bills, they oppose bills, and they try to sway or get swayed under arrangement. The bottom line is that legislative work in our assemblies is slow, intermittent, and subpar. Governments resort to promulgating ordinances which have a life of ninety days, but these are given new leases of life through various techniques. The purpose of all this discussion is that law-making is not in consonance with need of the time.
Drug Act was enacted in 1976 and still in force. There have been several amendments during the last 46 years, including formation of DRAP. SROs are notified in routine to make changes and fill the gaps. Response to changing needs is very slow. Our drug act 1976 is still largely living in 1970s, while the world has gone much ahead. The officers of DRAP are also conservative and averse to change. Training of DRAP officers is another serious issue. First, there is no integrated system for training, two, the training given to senior officers has not made much impact, and three, DRAP could not induct new and better people due to internal strife and litigations. Presently, the entire power is held between few officers who are more powerful than even the CEO. Another observation is that despite hierarchical organogram, even the junior most officers tend to challenge the higher authority whenever they choose to. DRAP therefore has not been able to do much, its governing Ministry has not been able to do much, and government has not attended to pharmaceutical sector in any concrete way. This is one part of the impact of policies.
Rising cost of manufacturing is also related to policies, levying of taxes and duties is a matter of policy. Energy prices are due to policy changes. Corruption has become the best policy in place of honesty. Law and Order, and social/political unrest is all related to government policies. The threats caused by government policies are quite a handful, and unfortunately, government does not recognize it, or chooses to look the other way.
Market Threats – Rising cost of selling is the most significant threat. The rise in cost has been due to two major factors: exponential increase in the number of sales teams’ staff; and huge increase in customer services’ expenses. Both are doing of the Pharma companies themselves and cannot be blamed on external factors. However, the rise in cost it has created is now threatening the existence of companies.
COVID19 episode exposed the weaknesses in the supply chain of Pharma companies. The Pharma companies have not invested enough in this area of great importance.
Perhaps the greatest threat of the time is talent shortage which is becoming evident already. Every company has job opportunities which are not getting filled due to talent shortage. Talent shortage is due to long history of not developing people, shunning trainings, diverting training and development budgets to other heads, suppressing dissent, and creating teams of cronies rather than performers. It will not be improved until concerted effort is invested for quite some time in it.
Geopolitical situation is beyond our control, but it will lead to price increases, commodity shortages, and interrupted logistics. All these factors are quite serious in nature.
The sum of threats is quite large and serious. So far, no effort can be seen to tackle these threats in earnest.