KARACHI - The pharmaceutical industry has made a total investment of Rs 107 billion in Pakistan to expand production base, thus, saving $ 3 billion worth of foreign exchange which would have otherwise spent on the import of medicines. This was stated by the President of Pakistan Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Association (PPMA) Zahid Saeed while speaking at a dinner hosted by PPMA in honour of newly-elected Senator Abdul Haseeb Khan, President of Brooks Laboratories Ltd Pakistan and KATI Development and Management Company. Former President PPMA Dr Qaiser Waheed, foreign diplomats and leading businessmen were also present. He said that local pharma industry which caters 90 per cent of country's total requirement for medicines and life saving drugs, was highly regulated and facing a threat of closure if it was not allowed to increase price on urgent basis. The industry has not been allowed to increase the price of medicines since 2001 when the government had permitted 3 percent increase in controlled medicines and 4 percent increase in de-controlled medicines. Saeed said that Pakistan was among those 35 countries which are self sufficient in medicines production, thanks to local pharma industry. The pharma industry indirectly employs about 1 billion people while its direct employees have touched 162,000 persons with large number of science graduates. He pointed out that the exports of medicines have touched $ 125 million, growing at a rate of 23 percent per annum. This export figure could have increased faster, had the pharmaceutical industry was provided facilities. He noted that the medicine export of neighbouring India was $ 6 billion and it has 75 FDA approved plants for pharmaceutical production. But Pakistan could not attract FDA approved plants due to country's rigid drug policies, he added. The PPMA president said that high cost of doing business including costly land, utilities and high interest rates was seriously hampering the growth of pharma industry. He said production of generic drugs has increased in Pakistan. In 1994, local industry was producing 30 percent generic drugs and 70 percent research based medicines. Today, it is producing 75 percent generic drugs and 25 percent research based brands, he added. He complained that industry is not allowed to pass on sale tax to the buyers, which it pays against the import of raw material. The industry also faces slow process of registration which hampers the industry besides restriction of contract manufacturing. He pointed out that due to depreciation of Pakistani rupee, the cost of raw material has increased and it is very difficult to sell medicines at old prices. Senator Abdul Haseeb Khan said that he will try his best to fight for the cause of the industry and raise his voice in the Parliament for the resolution of problems facing this vital industry. He urged PPMA members to get united for solving the problems faced by this industry. He suggested that instead of preferring personal interest, the members of pharma industry should work together for the solution of collective problems. Former president PPMA Dr Qaiser Waheed, former president FPCCI S M Muneer, Riaz Hussain of Pharma Bureau and Dr Khokhar of PPMA also spoke on the occasion.