LAHORE - Almost all major pharmaceutical companies are avoiding to produce several drugs due to low profit margin, resultantly, patients are suffering shortage of a number of medicines and they have to abruptly switch brands or medication which can proved to be fatal for them.

Industry sources said that in Pakistan, there are seven pharmaceutical companies, including one multinational company, which are given registration to produce Thyroxine but they have stopped production of these drugs due to low profit margin and no price increase for a long time. The situation is quite bad as even locally manufactured generics of Thyroxine are not available in local markets due to high manufacturing cost.

Manufacturers said that the Drug Regulatory Authority (DRA) doesn’t have any clue how to deal with this situation, though they were quick enough to reprimand a multinational for selling a combo packed 2 injections for Hepatitis in the price of one, on the pretext that patients did not benefit from it.

The new DRA, while flexing its muscles, seems like a drawing room committee as it only acts during its meetings, and it is least bothered by this dire situation, said the sources.

As per sources, six local companies, given registration, are not producing Thyroxine due to low margin in it. A local pharmacist stated that no locally produced Thyroxine is available in the market probably because it is not profitable as it costs Rs100 a pack of 100 tablets, it is picked up and smuggled out of the country as soon as it hits the market.

It is ironic that the benefit of such a cheap drug goes to patients in other countries, leaving both local patient and industry to suffer in Pakistan.

This is the reason, he adds, the patients have to buy alternative imported Eltroxin that costs Rs500 for a pack size of 100 tablets, a whopping difference of Rs400. ‘The patient is suffering in two ways, one to buy high-priced alternative and second to endanger their lives by switching brands,’ said a source.

It is to be noted that the goal of thyroid drug therapy is to provide the body with replacement thyroid hormone when the gland is not able to produce enough itself. In this scenario, any change, such as being switched between brand-name and generic or between two different generics, requires additional testing of thyroid hormone levels. ‘Many doctors still prefer to use brand-name products, noting that the cost difference between brand and generic thyroid drugs is not substantial,’ added the source.

The manufacturers asked the DRA to give a slight price increase to the companies so that ever-increasing cost could be compensated to earn some profit and they could start production of these medicines.