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Pakistan to face drugs shortage

Closure of the pharmaceutical industry will lead to a shortage of medicines, forcing patients to buy imported products at exorbitant rates. There is already a shortage of over 50 life-saving drugs in Pakistan. 

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The pharmaceutical industry has rejected the one percent sales tax on medicines. As a result, there are fears that the country may now face a drug shortage.

The previous government had imposed a 17 percent sales tax on Active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs) resulting in the blockage of running capital of pharma manufacturers and shortages of essential medicines. However, under the amended Finance Bill, the 17 percent sales tax will be reduced to only one percent on the import of APIs.

According to media reports, the Pakistan Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Association (PPMA) has refused to accept a one percent sales tax on medicines. To clarify, the one percent tax will lead to Rs70 billion in losses for the pharmaceutical industry. However, it is willing to accept the sales tax if the government agrees to pay the refund.

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As per PPMA President Qazi Mansoor Dilawar, the previous government had promised that the sales tax imposed under the International Monetary Fund (IMF) pressure would be refunded within 48 hours but no mechanism had been put in place for the refund, blocking a huge amount of Rs40 billion.

A dire situation

Pertinent to mention, many pharmaceutical factories are on the verge of closure. A three-time increase in the cost of raw materials, manifold increase in freight charges hike in power tariff and fuel prices, and devaluation of the rupee has exacerbated the problem. If the amount is not returned, then the cash-starved industry will have no option but to close down.

Closure of the pharmaceutical industry will lead to a shortage of medicines, forcing patients to buy imported products at exorbitant rates. There is already a shortage of over 50 life-saving drugs in Pakistan.

The medicines short in the market include Alp tablets used for anti-depression, Dexamethasone for asthma, cancer, and joint pain, Epitab for epilepsy, Nervin for depression, Epival, Fexet D, Nitronal, Ventoline tablets, and injections.

Moreover, Epival In, Myrin P, Ketasol Inj, Loprin, Silver tab, phenergen Elixir, Tixylix Lincitilus, Chlooriptics Drops, systane drops, Rivotril drops, Dormicum tablets, Winstor, Tritace, Sodamint, Schazobutil, Jardymet, and Brufen are reportedly short in the market.

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Lomotil, Panadol, Tan Primolut B, Progynova, Stilnix, Glucobay, Zentel, Avor, Gravibinan, Syp Gaviscon, Lipofundin, and Sorbid Injection are also not available.