ISLAMABAD - The Health Ministry has decided to amend the Drug Act 1976 to enhance the punishment to life imprisonment for spurious drugs manufacturers. Federal Minister of State for National Health Services, Regulations and Coordination Saira Afzal Tarar at a press briefing informed that the legislation is going to be introduced to increase the penalties against the people involved in the gruesome trade of spurious medicines. "The government is planning to plug loopholes in the drug act as, at present, the perpetrators can be sentenced only three years to 10 on first offence and life imprisonment on subsequent offence and under section 2(7) of the Act but hardly anyone was pronounced guilty in such cases," she added. She said that a proposal is also under consideration to refund money from the companies they earned from overcharging. "The Drap is also making rules to regulate the manufacturing of alternate medicines," informed Dr Junaid of Quality and Assurance Department at Drug Regulatory Authority of Pakistan (Drap). The minister also shared that during a campaign against spurious drugs, a joint team of Federal Investigation Agency (FIA), Peshawar and Drap, Peshawar, on February 19 inspected residential house of Haji Abdul Kareem and his brothers. During that raid spurious drugs, their labels, packages, literature, filled vials and ampoules, empty vials and ampoules, rubber stoppers, caps, sealing machine and raw material were seized under the drug act. "The case has unfolded a big network in the country who was supplying spurious drugs to various outlets. Almost all family members of Haji Abdul Karim were involved in this heinous crime against humanity. Various cases under the drugs act have been registered against Abdul Karim and his brothers," she added. "Investigation so far conducted revealed that this was a well-established network of spurious drugs dealers for the sake of grabbing money throughout Pakistan backbone of which is broken in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa," she remarked.Regarding the increase in prices, she said, the Pakistan Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Association has got stay order from the court to increase prices up to 15 per cent and the government could not act against the court orders. During the last two years, 17 pharmaceutical companies had increased the prices of their drugs exorbitantly and obtained stay orders from various courts. On September 17, 2013, the Drap filed an application in the Supreme Court against all those companies and the court on September 19, 2013 issued notices to those companies. The court in hearing of the case on March 20, 2014 has fixed the case of un-authorised price increase by the pharmaceutical companies in third week of April this year and directed Drap to submit a comprehensive report on the matter. The ministry also has drafted pricing formulae that will be shared with the parliamentary committees and will be applicable after the approval of Economic Coordination Committee of the Cabinet and Council of Common Interests. Regarding the appointment of Drap CEO, she said, the private firm, Ferguson, hired for the short-listing of the candidates has not sent any names to the ministry yet for the permanent appointment. "Due to ban on appointments, the work of regulatory body suffered a lot and three officials of the Drap with two computers were processing the application of 600 manufacturing units. Now the ministry will be able to fill 52 posts of Drap for which the ministry has received 812 applications and a four-member committee has been scrutinising the applications," she added.This news was published in The Nation newspaper. Read complete newspaper of 04-Apr-2014 here.