Pakistan’s first ever Pharma export Awards being held on September 29

Pakistan Pharmaceutical Manufacturer’s Association (PPMA) is hosting Pakistan's first-ever 'Pharma Export Summit and Awards 2021' on 29th September in Islamabad to demonstrate the export potential of an industry long ignored by the govt.

PESA Pharmaceutical Exports 2021

Pakistan Pharmaceutical Manufacturer’s Association (PPMA) is holding its first-ever “Pharma Export Summit and Awards 2021” (PESA) on the 29th of September at Serena Hotel in Islamabad.

This event, first of its kind, will be attended and addressed by Advisor to the Prime Minister on Commerce and Industry Abdul Razak Dawood, Federal Minister for Planning, Development and Special Initiatives Asad Umar and Special Assistant to PM (SAPM) on Health Dr.Faisal Sultan. Newly appointed SAPM on CPEC Khalid Mansoor who is tipped to become Chairman CPEC Authority will also attend amongst many other key officials from the federal government.

Top Pharma Companies tipped for Export Performance Awards

GVS has learnt that around 50 top Pharmaceutical companies from across Pakistan, will be awarded on the basis of export performance on 29th – as determined by the Trade Development Authority of Pakistan (TDAP).

CEOs of top performing companies that are expected to be personally present to receive awards include Khalid Mehmood (Getz Pharma), Nadeem Khalid (Herbion), Javed Mohammad (Martin Dow), Shahbaz Malik (Hilton Pharma), Haroon Qasim (Pharmevo), Israr Sharif (Genix Pharma), Shamim Ahmed (Sami Pharmaceuticals), and Kashif Sheikh of CCL Pharma. Incidentally most of these companies also fall in the top ten Pharmaceutical manufacturers of Pakistan.

Pharma Sector: Growing significance for Pakistan

Pakistan’s pharmaceutical sector has assumed great importance for the Imran Khan government. Ministry of Commerce under Adviser to PM, Razzaq Dawood, has been trying to shape a four point agenda for country’s exports, defined as: Product Diversificaton, Regional Connectivity, Market Access and Look Africa. Pharmaceutical industry that till recently was not even on government radar appears a fit candidate to meet these new aspirations.

Pharma provides the much needed product differentiation to Pakistani exports; it can provide market access in newly opening regions like Central Asia and Africa. In recent months Pharma exporters have travelled to Uzbekistan and Tajikistan along with the PM Imran Khan looking for opportunities to export and joint ventures for manufacturing.

Within Pakistan, this sector has grown steadily over the years – and without much help from the government. The worth of the pharmaceutical sector was estimated to be around $3.2 billion in 2020, showing an increase of 200 per cent over a period of 9 years. Exports from this sector of the economy were worth $218 million in 2019, up from $44.4 million in 2003. According to Mr. Tauqeer Haq, President of PPMA (Pakistan Pharma Manufacturer Association) exports in 2021 are at least US $250 million. – but other sources that spoke with GVS insist that this is only a fraction of what is possible with the government’s well thought out help.

Exports from Pharma sector, as per PPMA sources, saw a major increase in the first quarter of the previous fiscal year. And Pakistan’s pharmaceutical exports went up by 23% to $68.1 million during the first quarter of the current fiscal year of 2020/21. However, despite these recent growth spurts pharmaceutical exports made up for only 0.9 per cent of total exports in 2019 – which represents both the challenge and the opportunity.

Imran Khan government has been taking number of initiatives – like Sehat Cards – to expand public health sector. These and other planned expansions of public healthcare in Pakistan – the 5th most populous country with an estimated population of around 250 million – the value of pharmaceuticals manufactured in Pakistan has the potential to rise up to $5 billion by 2024-25.

Given policy support by the government, the pharmaceutical industry has the potential to compete at the global level, while working in coherence with the government and regulatory agencies – industry insiders insist. First PESA event thus aims to highlight the triumphs of this sector and outline the potential to which it can contribute to the economy of Pakistan – given proper policy direction and facilitation by the government.

Pharma Sector: Expectations from Govt?

The pharmaceutical sector of Pakistan has long been asking for the kind of government support that has been provided to other prominent sectors like textile and believes that the sector can have a meaningful contribution to Pakistan’s GDP – if such a support through concrete policy measures is made available. Some recent professional publications argue the same.

“Including institutional sales, industry posits that this sector easily becomes a retail market worth USD 4 billion,” a report titled ‘A Health Check for a Better Future: Unleashing the Potential of Pharmaceuticals in Pakistan’ states.

The industry is currently struggling due to lack of chemical industry in the country, poor governance, electricity shortages, inconsistence policies of DRAP regulator that cheery picks policies from world in the absence of a long-term drug policy, the report noted.

This above cited report was also of the view that global pharmaceutical markets are going through major restructuring due to the ongoing pandemic, presenting an opportunity for Pakistan to enter the global “off-patent drugs market” that will be worth $700 billion in branded generics and $381 billion in generics by 2025.

Considering these facts, the Pharmaceutical industry had made some viable recommendations to the government prior to the 2021 budget.

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The industry recommended that the prices should not be regulated for drugs whose markets are competitive or monopolistically competitive. Price regulation should only be there in the case of a monopoly or collusive oligopolistic behavior.

The industry also suggested that the government allows duty-free imports of all APIs (active pharmaceuticals ingredients) and machinery for the both domestic and export market. This was granted in the budget as “to incentivize pharmaceutical products. CD and ACD has been exempted on 358 active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs), the raw material of auto-disable syringes and Remdesivir.”

However much is needed, from the government, to streamline this vital industry; Pakistan being a country of 250 million offers a huge domestic market that can expand to provide products at competitive prices to Afghanistan, Central Asia and Africa if the government in Islamabad can come up with a wall thought out coherent policy plan that focuses on both the chemical and pharmaceutical industries. Govt should also think of creating a separate sub-ministry to facilitate exports like the “pharmexcil” in India” – an industry insider told  GVS.

“Pharmexcil” is Pharmaceutical Export Promotion Council created by the Ministry of Commerce in India. India is one of the largest Pharma exporter in the world and as of February 2021, its exports were more than US $24 billion with US as its largest market for generic drugs. China is equally large manufacturer and exporter in pharmaceuticals. Both however rely upon large domestic markets (more than 1.3 billion each) and strong chemical industry that furnishes active ingredients (API) at most economical prices.

GVS Special Report from Business Desk with additional input by Editors.