Pharma has potential to surpass textile industry in Pakistan: Chairman AGP

Prices should be deregulated to enhance competition and decrease prices of medicine

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KARACHI: The pharmaceutical industry in Pakistan has the potential to increase its exports to such an extent that it can become the biggest exporting industry in the country, potentially even surpassing the textile industry, says AGP Chairman Tariq Moinuddin Khan.

“The pharmaceutical industry has the potential to leave behind textile. The government should understand that there’s not only one industry but several others,” Tariq said while talking to reporters here at Pakistan Stock Exchange (PSX) on Monday.

AGP has become the first local pharmaceutical company to be incorporated at the PSX in 23 years. Tariq said that the business model of AGP was acquisition and mergers, and the company has done five acquisitions of multinational companies in the last ten years.

“We export only about $150 million medicines while our neighbors India export around $20 to 30 billion of exports. We also have the potential to increase our exports considerably if there’s a proper policy,” he said.

He criticized decision makers in the government and accused them of only being concerned with the pricing of drugs rather than looking at the bigger picture.

“The government only focuses on pricing while dealing with pharma industry. Leave the price deregulated and I guarantee you that prices will come down as companies will start competing. Everyone will tell you the same thing in the industry,” Tariq said.

He added that the government should only dictate prices for life saving drugs. He further said that the difference between low prices of medicines in India and its higher priced equivalents in Pakistan was because of the same fact that India has left the pricing of medicines on the economics of market forces.

However, he added that according to a study, the prices of drugs were low in Pakistan as compared to other countries. “The government (excessively) taxes the pharmaceutical industry when they import raw material and other packaging material for medicines. It is difficult to compete in the international arena,” he said.

He added that there was no FDA regulated production facility in Pakistan since there is no incentive for taking the initiative, which would cost producers around $35 to 40 million.

Meanwhile, he said that AGP would be launching its breast cancer drugs – Hetraz, which will be sold at half of the price of its currently available substitute. AGP specializes in women’s health, paeds and oncology drugs etc. It will also be introducing AIDS medicines and also produce vaccinations which are imported in Pakistan and not currently produced by any other company.

Tariq added that AGP also plans to enter healthcare by establishing clinics, hospitals, and later educational institutions to teach medicine.

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