ISLAMABAD – As the government is yet to appoint the chief executive officer (CEO) of the newly established Drug Regulatory Agency of Pakistan (DRAP), the experts call for the appointment of a professional having working experience of international drug agencies to ensure the implementation of the drug rules.

There are many superannuated Pakistanis who have worked in developed countries’ drug authorities and want to work here on their return. The government can acquire their expertise by appointing them on major posts of the agency as they have no vested interests also and can ensure proper implementation of good manufacturing practices, opined Dr Khalid Bokhari, President Pakistan Pharmacist Association.

President Asif Ali Zardari on February 17 had promulgated an ordinance to form the agency headed by the CEO who is required to have a master’s degree with 20 years of experience to ensure regulation of countrywide manufacturing, licensing, registration and sale of drugs in line with Drug Act 1976.

Overall, the implementation of good manufacturing practices in pharmaceutical companies are not up to the standards set by the World Health Organization (WHO) and drug regulatory system remains weak in the country. Thus, there is need of proper implementation of rules and development of a system of checks and balance to avert any accidents like Punjab Institute of Cardiology (PIC) that caused the loss of between 120 to 140 lives.

Though the pharmaceutical industry has been exporting their products to 60 countries out of 190 countries, it includes only those countries where drug regulatory systems are weak like Afghanistan and African countries and where the drug regulation systems are strong, they cannot export their products, informed an official who wished not to be named as he was not authorized to speak to media.

Over 650 manufacturer companies have been working in the country including national and 17 multinational manufacturing 70, 000 rgistered medicines. But the defunct drug authority which ceased to exist after June 30, 2011, had only the workforce of 63 people to regulate the drug industry in a country of 180 million population. According to an official of the authority out of 63 posts most of them remained vacant. Whereas in Jordan, a country of 6 million population, 16 pharmaceutical companies have been working and 600 technical experts work in the drug regulatory authority to regulate the system.  According to experts there is also a need of capacity building of drug testing laboratories in the country according to international standards. Currently, 6 drug testing laboratories have been working across the country but with limited capacity, without latest equipments and not accredited with international laboratories and associations. And according to WHO officials even one of them is not WHO pre-qualified.

They were not upgraded with the passage of time and if initially they were conducting 200 tests annually now they have a load of 25000 drug tests.