Dear Colleagues! This is Asrar Qureshi’s Blog Post #629 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 email@example.com for publishing your contributions here.
February 2022 marked my completing 47 years of working in Pharma Industry. Allah be praised. I am still working. 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.
It is now time to strategize, as this was the purpose of this long exercise.
Strategies are made on these parameters:
- Strategies based on Strengths
- Strategies to mitigate Weaknesses
- Strategies to exploit Opportunities
- Strategies to avert Threats
We shall follow the same line of thinking. We have completed Strategy Recommendations based on Strengths.
Strategies to Mitigate Weaknesses
- Rationalize and Energize PPMA – Pakistan Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Association is the only representative body of Local Pharma. However, not all local manufacturers opt to take membership of PPMA. PPMA was founded in 1961 and is recognized by the government as the only trade body of Pakistan’s local pharmaceutical companies. Currently it has about 400 members which is roughly half the number of local manufacturers.
- PPMA has a checkered record, some achievements, and some failures. For example, the inability to take the entire industry or the major part on board is a failure. There are grudges that keep industry members away from PPMA. Fee structure is one, domination by certain groups is another, not doing enough for industry is yet another.
- PPMA has not been able to become an effective partner during policy making. Pharma industry did not get price increase for several years, but this case was not taken up as strongly as probably it should have been. Registration delays, inspections delays, and regulators’ attitude are serious issues which were not brought to table properly.
- PPMA has been fighting some cases on demand from lower end of the industry which were technically weak or even wrong. They tried hard to stop the introduction of CTD – Common Technical Document format of registration dossier while it was adopted by even small countries like Tanzania long time ago. They lost finally. Prior to this, they had been fighting to undo SRO1103(1)2006 which restricted the discount on MRP – Maximum Retail Price to 40%. They did get some relief in July 2007 amendment which changed the MRP to TP – Trade Price, the price at which drugs are supplied to retail pharmacies. HVAC installation was contested for several years. While such stances might have endeared PPMA to some of its members, it damaged its authenticity. PPMA must work at both ends: work for the interest of the industry and work for the interest of public health.
- PPMA has internal friction due to severely fragmented market situation. Top 50 companies have almost 90% share of the Pharma market, they are the movers and shakers of the industry, but they are generally not active in PPMA. The most active members mostly have negligible share of market. This is hurting the mandate of PPMA seriously. The two groups have diverse demands which do not match, and PPMA get torn between the two. Mostly, it tilts towards the smaller industry members who are fighting for survival, not for growth. PPMA is thus forced to take up causes which are self-defeating.
- PPMA stopped elections many years ago and adopted the selection method. The turn between south and north is fixed for alternating year, and some Executive Committee members are also fixed. The offices are allocated with understanding in which the entire membership does not play a role. Transparency and fairness which would have been promoted through repeated elections was lost and many members felt alienated.
- PPMA is as active as its office-bearers. In a year, when an active person takes over, PPMA start moving in some positive direction. Next year, it becomes sluggish again.
- PPMA office-bearers have been alleged to pursue personal interests over industry interests. It is also said that some members have hijacked the organization and are using it for their own interests only.
- Pharma industry is facing many challenges: energy crisis, rising costs, currency devaluation, increasing regulatory requirements, and the most recent slapping of 17% GST refund of which is in a huge grey area, are all serious challenges. PPMA has not become the voice of force and presented its case as effectively. For every problem, it has only one solution; increase the prices. All governments have problem with increasing drug prices as it becomes a public issue. There could be more sustainable solutions that PPMA should come up with.
- PPMA is alleged to have been run by a small number of kingmakers who pull the strings from behind the scenes. Some young people have been invited to join but they are all sons and daughters of the old guards. PPMA needs real fresh blood with fresh ideas.
- The desperate call for strike is counterintuitive. The public does not support it and the government would not accept it, and therefore it is the least desired way to go.
Pharma Industry is a key industry and key stakeholder in the public health system. However, it has lost its shine, glamour, respect, and credibility over the years. PPMA shares the decline. It is high time that the PPMA reorganizes itself, redo its command system, and bring new energy to take the Pharma Industry into the next era.
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