Karachi, Feb. 7: Acknowledging corruption and malpractice in the registration and pricing of drugs at federal level since the creation of Pakistan, the Pakistan Medical Association (PMA) on Monday insisted on establishment of a federal authority to regulate medicines in the country.
PMA office-bearers at a news conference at the Karachi Press Club (KPC) said that after the recent drug-related deaths in Punjab, no doctor knew what they were prescribing to their patients in the name of medicines available in the county, and claimed that the entire population of the country was in danger.
“Over 57,000 drugs have been registered in Pakistan, of which 6,000 in the last two years alone. There is no other country in the world where such a large number of drugs have been registered. We the doctors believe that we don’t need such a large number of drugs in the country,” the PMA Central President, Prof Tipu Sultan, said.
He acknowledged that medicines were approved and registered by taking money in Pakistan at the federal level, but said like every civilized country, Pakistan, too, needed to have a central drug regulatory authority which should be less corrupt.
Prof Sultan claimed that medicine markets and pharmacies were full of counterfeits and spurious medicines in the country and added that over 50 percent medicines being sold in pharmacies in the smaller cities of the country were spurious.
“In order to regulate all these issues, we call for a strong, competent and honest central drug regulatory authority instead of having such authorities at the provincial level,” he said and claimed that creation of provincial drug regulatory authorities would create many problems.
“Availability, pricing and inter-provincial smuggling of drugs would be some of the major issues if medicines are to be regulated at the provincial level,” he claimed.
To a query, the PMA president said they were in favour of provincial autonomy but believed that some subjects like medical education and its regulatory body, the Pakistan Medical and Dental Council (PMDC) and the Drug Regulatory Authority were established at the federal level.
PMA Secretary-General, Dr Mirza Ali Azhar, said on the occasion that after the 18th Constitutional Amendment, the government had failed to develop and maintain the procedure for registration, testing and verification of newly introduced drugs in the market.
“Because of this negligence, all provinces are facing a situation which is causing immense problems and difficulties for both patients and physicians, resulting in loss of precious lives,” he maintained.
He demanded immediate withdrawal of all the drugs that did not meet the criteria of the World Health Organization (WHO) and development of a strong mechanism to deal with natural and manmade emergencies like the Lahore drug deaths.
The PMA office-bearers also deplored that there was no scientific lab competent enough in the country to analyze drugs, compelling the authorities to send the suspicious drugs to the London School of Pharmacy for testing.
On the occasion, they demanded that no president or prime minister or any government official should go abroad for medical treatment.