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Strike against Drug Act

The Chemist Association is on strike against amendments in the Drug Act. Owing to the strike, patients faced considerable difficulty as medical stores.The new amendments, amongst other clauses, call for a pharmacist to be present at every pharmacy and for sellers of fake medicines to be fined.According to details, the wholesale market and distribution of medical supplies in Karachi will also remain closed. In Lahore, a split has occurred between protesters involved in the selling and manufacture of medical drugs. The Retailers Association has decided to postpone their strike till February 20 after the negotiations with the government, whereas pharmaceutical companies are standing firm on the decision to protest against the Drug Act.On the same time differences have also emerged in Pakistan Pharmaceutical Association as one group has delayed the strike till February 17 after dialogue with Minister for Primary and Secondary Health Khawaja Imran Nazir.The amendments in the act have tightened the rules for medical stores. The law now requires medical stores across Punjab to employ a pharmacist.Stores selling unregistered medicines will be sealed and charged a hefty penalty, as per an amendment in the Drug Act. Areas observing the strike include Changa Manga, Vehari, Pindi Bhattian, and Toba Tek Singh.The wholesale medicine market remained closed in Karachi with supplies to medical stores suspended as an act of protest by the Wholesale Chemist Council of Pakistan.Pharmaceutical companies and all the medicine markets in Karachi and other parts of Sindh showed solidarity with the Punjab sector.The wholesalers, retailers and distributors, on the call of Pakistan Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Association and Wholesale Chemist Council of Pakistan, suspended their economic activities against what they called ‘killer amendments’ to the Drugs Act 1976 in the Punjab Assembly.Some 270 pharma industrial units across the country along with wholesalers, distributors and stockists associated with the pharmaceutical trade have termed the Punjab Drugs (Amendment) Bill, 2017 as ‘Black Law’.Protest rallies and demonstrations were held against the bill at all the markets in the province including Karachi.PPMA and WCCP said that the centre and all provincial Drug Act regulators should take stakeholders on board while taking any decision or amendment in the act otherwise changes would not be acceptable.They said that Regulatory mechanism for issues related to price control, registration, licensing, distribution and sale of medicines should remain a subject of federal government.The Drug Regulatory Authority of Pakistan should have powers to control and regulate affairs related to manufacturing and trade of medicines in the country. The best way to achieve this goal is to make Drap an independent and autonomous regulator for pharmaceutical sector. The regulatory authority should be placed under the Council of Common Interests having representation of all the provinces. The reservations held by the protestors look to be much more than just ensuring the presence of a pharmacist. Moreover, both the steps outlined by the government under the legislation are necessary and check both the illegal practices of selling fake medicines as well as in the absence of a trained pharmacist. The government should have taken the relevant stakeholders on board before implementing the legislation to avoid such a situation which took turn for the worst. The government should take steps to control the situation and resolve the matter amicably and as soon as possible.

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