Pharma entrepreneurs and experts today asked the government and the regulatory agencies to put a stop to free flow of substandard drugs into the country.
Urging the government for stricter monitoring, they also called for a regulatory framework to supervise the rampant imports of inferior medicine that pose great risk to lives of the people.
Addressing the 23rd anniversary of Deurali-Janta Pharmaceuticals, former director general of Department of Drug Administration (DDA) that looks after the pharmaceutical industry Bhupendra Thapa asked the government to check the free flow of substandard medicines.
With an effective mechanism, the government should keep vigil on imports of drugs, he said, adding that the government should bring foreign drugs imports under the regulatory framework by imposing a small amount of VAT on them. "The drugs do not attract customs duty and VAT, tht has encouraged a massive inflow of inferior quality drugs into the country."
The 47 pharmaceutical companies operating in the country claim to hold 45 per cent of the domestic pharmaceutical market worth Rs 18 billion annually. They also claim to be manufacturing quality products that are cheaper than imports.
"The government should scan the foreign companies exporting medicines to Nepal," Deurali-Janta chief executive officer Hari Bhakta Sharma advised, adding that the government should also conduct a relative test. "The government has to support the private sector in developing innovative products to promote exports, otherwise, the country could not able to generate employment for 280,000 people, who come into market every year."
Deurali-Janta – that was established with an investment of over Rs 900 million 23 years ago – manufactures 210 types of general medicines including drugs for heart problems, nerves, diabetes and skin diseases.
However, the company has been running at only 55 per cent of its capacity that has curtailed its plan to manufacture more innovative products.
Finance Minister Shankar Prasad Koirala, on the occasion, said that the proposed Industrial Enterprise Act would address many issues related to regulation of businesses including pharmaceuticles industry. "The proposed Act will help resolve the issues and concerns of the private sector and secure their investment."
Stressing the need of prioritising production for making the country self-reliant, he said, accepting that there are problems in the industrial sector. "The Technology Development Fund, which was brought to encourage the industrialists, would be used in consultation with the private sector."
The government is planning to reopen Nepal Drugs, Koirala informed.
The Nepal Drugs has been closed since it was found to have failed to meet Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP) standards set by the United Nation’s World Health Organisation (WHO).But the government has proposed to resume operations of Nepal Drugs, he said, adding that the proposal is in the cabinet. "The modality for operating the ailing company has, however, not been fixed yet."