I would like to welcome all of you to the first Pharma Export Summit and Awards (PESA) 2021 with the quote, “The only impossible journey is the one that you never begin.” This is one of our steps in the journey to promote pharmaceutical export and to resolve all the issues we face while going on this journey.
I acknowledge the presence of our honorable chief guest Mr. Abdul Razak Sahab, for his kind presence, and I am thankful to all of you for making this program successful by such excellent participation here.
As you know, Pakistan’s pharmaceutical industry is now set to go beyond. The pharmaceutical industry is the lifeline and very important for any country as far as healthcare is concerned.
We feel proud that the government has now started thinking and recognizing that the pharmaceutical industry is one of the growth engines for the economy of Pakistan. And a strong pharmaceutical industry not only ensures the availability of quality medicine in the reach of the patients but also ensures that the latest research molecules are available throughout the year, and we are all set to pave the way for making the latest molecules available in Pakistan.
Pakistan Pharmaceutical Manufacturing Association (PPMA) welcomes and congratulates all the 50 companies who will be recognized in the shape of an export award for their excellent contribution towards expanding the export.
If you look at the pharmaceutical industry today, it is valued at Rs. 550 billion, and many companies are contributing more than Rs. 10 billion individually. The pharmaceutical industry of Pakistan is now characterized as improving and developing continuously.
In the past, the market share of the pharmaceutical industry was predominantly multinational, but with the continuous effort and clear mindset to provide quality medicine, today national pharmaceutical industry holds 70 percent market share and, in the last year, even in the phase of pandemic, we have been able to introduce 303 new molecules in the industry which depicts the resilience and effort by the industry to provide quality medicine for the healthcare system.
When we compare our domestic performance with exports we had been struggling in the past as far as exports are concerned. In 2003, our total export was US $ 44 million, and even today, we are wandering around US $ 240 -250 million export sales.
If we compare ourselves with our neighboring country India, it has passed US $24 billion USD sales, and even Bangladesh is ahead of us; so looking at these statistics, we can now clearly see that there is a huge potential ahead of us.
I am very thankful to the government for now starting to think of the pharmaceutical industry as their next player and partner to increase export revenues. Our prime minister, Mr. Imran Khan, has already announced that focusing on the pharmaceutical industry is the policy of the government now, and he acknowledges and agrees that the pharmaceutical industry was not given due importance and attention in the past.
He also acknowledges that there is lots of potential in the pharmaceutical industry, and for that, the government has to revisit its policies. Impediments will be removed, and the Pakistan pharmaceutical industry will be supported by the government so that we can take the journey onwards for expanding our export business.
And I am sure if the government holds our hand and gives us consistent policies…tou phir mai kahunga sitaron se aagay jahaan aur bhi hain (then I would say, the world extends far beyond the stars). The prime minister announced that he will support the pharmaceutical industry, and so the pharmaceutical industry joined hands with the government and immediately responded, whereby during the first quarter in this fiscal year, our export grew by 23 percent by registering 68 million USD sales just in three months.
I would now like to acknowledge the support and relief given by the government during the last twelve months. I would like to thank Mr. Abdul Razak Sahab for the best relief we have gotten during this year on duties, equipment, and active pharmaceutical ingredients (API). Please give a big hand for this excellent relief; why?
Because to expand exports we have to continuously upgrade our manufacturing plants and the duties were such that we were unable to invest, so this relief has paved the way and attracted the industry to invest towards export because we will only be able to get our products registered beyond Pakistan if we upgrade our manufacturing plants.
Secondly, the current contract manufacturing policy for export is very restrictive, and to change that, I have been working with Razak Dawood Sahab, Dr. Faisal Sultan, and the Drug Regulatory Authority of Pakistan (DRAP). What happened to that new contract manufacturing policy we expected? I leave that to Razak Sahab to tell us about when he comes here.
Thirdly, I am very thankful to DRAP, because for the last year since I have been chairman, my team and I have been able to get so much relief regarding contract manufacturing policy and API policy which many pharmaceutical companies are interested in going for (making APIs) but since there was no policy on API in place, they could not. That policy has now been finalized by the DRAP Authority Board, and InShaAllah will be announced very soon.
Then, one issue was that if you look around the globe, for example, in the Philippines, 30 percent according to their IMS (In-Market Sales) market is in the hands of nutraceuticals, and here in Pakistan, the policy was that if we have manufacturing license, we cannot manufacture nutraceuticals in the same plant and that policy was very unfriendly.
So, on behalf of PPMA, we worked very closely with DRAP, and I am thankful to Mr. Asim Rauf, CEO – DRAP, Dr. Obaid, and Dr. Amir for having worked closely with us and understanding our concerns.
And by the grace of Allah, the revised policy for nutraceuticals has been finalized and announced whereby we can all manufacture nutraceutical products in the same facility, and there is a similar case for medical devices, whereby we can now manufacture medical devices as well.
Do you know why this is important? Because it is easier to get medical devices, nutraceuticals, and healthcare products approved beyond Pakistan, and so that is another avenue ahead of us which will facilitate expanding our export, and with such policies, InShaAllah in next five years, we will be crossing 2 billion USD sales in our exports.
Then, what do we need from the government? Another important thing for which I would like to thank Mr. Abdul Razak Sahab is that during the last five months, under his leadership of the Ministry of Commerce and that of our prime minister, we went to Sri Lanka, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan;later has opened the gate for us to enter these important markets.
We were able to get many partners there and undertake B2B meetings because this delegation was supported by the government. I would request Razak Sahab that this practice should be continued, this is really helping us expanding our export in the future as well.
Another support we need comes from a functional DRAP because once our policies and actions are done there, only then we can expand our export. We are raising this point to Abdul Razak Sahab that the CEO, DRAP, and the Director, DRAP should be permanent so that there is no stoppage and ambiguity because after every three months, the DRAP becomes dysfunctional, and it takes about one month for it to become functional again. So, I would request Razak Sahab to raise our voice as well, and DRAP should be an independent institution.
The lifeline of the pharmaceutical industry is new products, and we faced a lot of issues in the fixation of our prices and also getting our pricing policy adhered to. So, I would emphasize this lifeline to the DRAP, the Ministry of Commerce, and the Ministry of Health, because if we are unable to get new molecules on time, not only are we depriving our nation of new molecules and new treatments, but we also become late as we go for export because our neighboring countries are already there and have established their brands.
In order for us to establish our exports, we need exchange proceeds to be about 35 percent, and we had a wonderful meeting with the governor State Bank of Pakistan (SBP), and he promised to work with us to increase the exchange proceeds because we have to establish our brand and set up our team there.
We have to pay commissions, and there are a lot of marketing expenses, and so with the help of Razak Sahab, we had a wonderful meeting with the SBP last week, and InShaAllah, we will hear good news from them because this support is very important for our operations to be viable there.
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Also, the government of Pakistan is taking 1 percent Central Research Fund (CRF) from us, and billions of rupees have accumulated with the government. We would like to request the government for this CRF fund to be given to us for Research and Development and should be used, for example, to bring and transfer technologies and to establish Bio Cleanse labs.
In order to get our products registered beyond Pakistan, we have to go for a Bio Cleanse study, and we are dependent on foreign countries like Malaysia and Thailand for that, the cost of which is between US $ 40,000 to US $ 100,000.
So, if this Research Fund is utilized and Bio Cleanse labs are established in Pakistan, it will not only reduce the cost but will help us to take our medicines beyond Pakistan as quickly as possible. Since this TCRF Fund is given by us for our development, so it should be used for us.
Another problem that the industry is facing is that of the Common Technical Document (CTD) format. I would like to thank DRAP, especially Dr. Ubaid and CEO Asim Sahab, for helping us and granting tremendous relief for CTD.
Though, the demand of the industry is, because we lack resources and are still in the development phase, that this CTD is given an exemption for old molecules and generic molecules for at least three years. For this, we have already handed in a written request to the Minister of Health and the Secretary, Health.
But I am thankful to DRAP for giving us such an excellent relief because it has granted us some leverage. I also had a meeting with the CEO, DRAP, because we are facing an issue regarding a delay in registration for CTD format, and so they have promised that in October and November, 600 registrations on CTD format will be approved within these two months, and that will be a very good relief for us.
So, finally, I would like to say that the government dreams of export expansion, and the DRAP has granted us relief over the matters that I have just discussed, relief that has benefited us tremendously.
If this keeps up and the government continues to support us in this way, then I am 100 percent sure that we are a nation that can overcome any hurdles. The government has just begun to lend its hand to the industry, and one fruit of that is our beneficent gathering here today. InShaAllah, we promise that with continuous support from the government, the Ministry of Commerce, and DRAP, we will prosper.
I know that the DRAP already takes our exports very seriouly, but I request for the related processes to be sped up even more, especially that of Green Protection Management (GPM) certificates that are separate for every country; this should be a “one certificate for all.”
With the government’s commitment, our passion, and sped-up processes in DRAP, then I am 100 percent sure that our exports will achieve milestones. I would like to say that InshaAllah, we will make this happen together with an unprecedented drive to not only see our businesses flourish but our industry growing.
We request for the government to support us in the same way as we hear of the support being given to the textile industry. We are ready, Razak Sahab; we just need the government to hold our hand.
Our pharmaceutical industry has a great deal of potential because we are currently exporting to a market of US $ 12.7 billion whereas total market size is around US $ 74 billion, so you can imagine the places we are capable of going. We will achieve this hand in hand, and I would like to end my speech by saying:
“apni raftaar ko kuch aur zara taiz karou, apne jazbaat ko kuch aur janoon khez karou, aur khud-ba-khud toot kar girti nahein zanjeer kabhi, khud-ba-khud toot kar girti nahein zanjeer kabhi, badli jaati hai, badalti nai taqdeer kabhi.”