KARACHI - The deaths of scores of people in the north-eastern city of Lahore after taking counterfeit medicine have jolted Pakistan's pharmaceutical industry.
This (scandal) will have a bad impact on local pharmaceutical industry. There is no doubt about it, Khawaja Mohammad Asad, the chairman of the Pakistan Pharmaceutical Manufacturing Association (PPMA), told OnIslam.net.
At least a hundred people died in Lahore last month after taking counterfeit medicines.
The medicine was manufactured by Efroze Chemicals, a factory in Pakistan's southern city of Karachi, the capital of Sindh province.
A London-based laboratory that tested the medicine, known as Isotab, found that the drug contained anti-malarial chemical 14 times more than the required amount.
The scandal has prompted several countries to cancel medicine orders from Pakistan.
Neighboring Afghanistan, Sri Lanka, Sudan, and Cambodia, which had been major buyers of Pakistani medicines, have cancelled orders to the tune of millions of dollars.
Authorities also confirmed that Afghan authorities are refusing entry of containers carrying locally manufactured drugs.
Pakistan exports medicines worth 20 million dollars annually to the war-stricken Afghanistan.
Queries were also sent to local medicine manufacturers from different countries about the quality of drugs meant to be exported.
At least two African countries have lodged queries about medicines imported from Pakistan, Khawaja said.
We are also worried about our payments, which might be stuck in various countries (where Pakistani manufacturers export medicines), he said.
Pakistani companies are also facing an imminent threat of losing export business and market share after the World Health Organization has advised different countries to look into the quality of drugs imported from Pakistan.
We are equally sad and worried. We are not downplaying the pain and miseries of dejected families, Khawaja said.
But this was (because of) only one drug. It doesn't mean that all the locally manufactured drugs are substandard or dangerous.
Pakistan exports drugs to 27 countries including, Africa, Far East and South and Central Asian Republics.
Around 60 percent of the medical exports are directed to African countries.
There are some 640 registered pharmaceutical companies in Pakistan, of which 60 companies are recognized brands, and export medicines globally earning a foreign exchange of 200 million dollars annually for the national exchequer.
The scandal has also shattered the confidence of Pakistanis in their pharmaceutical industry.
Deaths caused by the counterfeit medicines have played havoc with the cardiac patients, Mamnoon Hussein, who runs a pharmacy in main medicines market in Karachi, told OnIslam.net.
Sale of cardiac related medicines had unprecedentedly gone down until the actual drug that caused the whole tragedy was sorted out.
Hussein believes that though that situation has improved to an extent, it still needs a long time to revive the confidence of a common citizen.
A large number of patients without consulting their doctors have stopped using even prescribed and standard drugs fearing a similar reaction, he said.
They are not ready to trust us.
Dr Mushtaq Suhail, a Karachi-based cardiologist, agrees.
Trust in your doctor and medicines you are using is very essential for a patient. Almost fifty percent of the disease can be cured through confidence, he told OnIslam.net.
Each and every patient of mine is now worried about the quality and possibility of any further reaction. It has become hard for me to convince them.
If a patient is skeptical about the quality and effects, it will badly affect the effectiveness and impact of the medicines he is using, Dr Suhail said.
This scandal has done no good to us.
Khawaja, the PPMA chairman, agrees that common people have gone shaky after this scandal.It needs time to restore the confidence of common people, who are the major sufferers of this event. We need to restore their confidence at any cost.
Reproduced with permission from OnIslam.net