Many life-saving drugs disappear from market as manufacturing halts

No immediate respite for patients as shortage to continue for two-three months
<p>Photo: AFP</p>

Photo: AFP

Patients across the country are facing a harrowing situation as many life-saving drugs have disappeared from the market since manufacturers had not timely imported raw materials due to high rate of sales tax.

In different parts of the country including Lahore, the people are witnessing a shortage of life-saving medicines as they are visiting the medical stores.

These include medicines for chronic diseases like diabetes, blood pressure, cholesterol, hepatitis, and other diseases. The over-the-counter drugs for fever and aches are also missing from the shelves of the pharmacies.

Pakistan Pharmaceutical Manufacturing Association (PPMA) has said that the imposition of sales tax on the raw materials had increased the cost for manufacturing medicines and with current prices set by the government, they were left with no option than to stop import of the material.

The government has approved tax relaxation sought by the industry, but it would still take two to three months for the raw materials to be delivered to Pakistan, the association officials said.

The situation has put thousands of lives at risk and people are making rounds to different pharmacies but returning empty-handed.

The shortage has also affected the supply of medicinal drugs used in pathological laboratories during various tests.

PPMA has blamed the imposition of sales tax on the raw materials for the dire situation.

While talking to SAMAA TV before meeting the government officials on Monday, PPMA Chairman Mansoor Dilawar said manufacturing medicines, requiring imported raw materials, was no more possible for them.

He said the production could not restart until the government removed the tax. “The manufacturing will only become possible after the abolishment of tax,” Dilawar said categorically.

Govt assures redressal of issues

On the other hand, Federal Finance and Revenue Minister Miftah Ismail on Monday assured the PPMA of resolving their issues and providing maximum support to them.

The minister met with a delegation of the association headed by its chairman Dilawar at finance division. The meeting was also attended by Federal Health Minister Abdul Qadir Patel, Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) chairman and others

The participants discussed issues related to the pharma industry in Pakistan especially sales tax on imports of raw materials and its refund.

The government assured PPMA that all of its issues will be resolved.

‘Shortage to end in 2-3 months’

In a press conference following the meeting, PPMA chairman said the government had agreed on bringing the tax down to only 1%, but it would still take two to three months for the situation to normalize.

Mansoor said the previous government imposed a 17% sales tax on raw materials for medicine, but the incumbent government saved the industry by waiving it.

He said Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif has approved only 1% sales tax on the ‘active’ raw materials while a 17% rate would stay in place for raw materials used for other purposes.

Mansoor said that only a 1% tax will be charged after the production of medicines, which, he said, would not affect the price of medicines.

However, he said that it would take at least two to three months for raw materials to reach Pakistan, and it is only after its delivery that the shortage will end.

Mansoor said the pharmaceutical companies will receive the tax refund by July 15.


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