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Bulk drug units seek border boost

New Delhi, March 15: Caught between a flood of cheap imports from China and restrictions on export to Pakistan, the Indian pharmaceutical industry has sought the government's intervention in opening up bulk drug exports to the neighbouring country.

According to sources, the Indian Drug Manufacturers Association (IDMA) ' the umbrella association of the domestic pharmaceutical industry ' has written to the ministry of chemicals and fertilisers pointing out that Pakistan was adopting a policy of 'discrimination' by continuing to prohibit the import of bulk drugs from India.

'Pakistan has a protectionist policy for its own drug manufacturing industry with import duty on bulk drugs ranging between 10 per cent and 35 per cent. It is, however, peculiar that drug manufacturers from all over the world, except India, can export their produce of bulk drugs to Pakistan after paying the applicable duty,' IDMA sources said.

Pakistan has a specific policy for India, where imports of bulk drugs from across the border is completely prohibited if a similar drug is produced locally, sources added.

'The same policy, however, is not applicable to other countries. As a result, China, Thailand, Korea and countries from the EU continue to export their bulk drugs although similar drugs are being produced in Pakistan,' said an executive of a Delhi-based pharma company.

Pharmaceutical industry sources said the policy has blocked a large potential market for Indian bulk drugs, particularly in the categories of ampicillin, paracetamol and aspirin. Even though firms in Pakistan produce these drugs, Chinese and EU manufacturers are exporting similar medicines to the neighbouring country despite high duties.

'The fact that drug manufacturers from other countries export aspirins and paracetamols to Pakistan despite high duties only shows that Indian drug manufacturers are losing out on the scale of global competitiveness. We are not asking for a cut in duties. But we should at least be treated on the same scale as other countries and the government should impress upon the Pakistan establishment about this,' sources in IDMA said.

At present, the bulk of Pakistan's drug imports comes from China, although India's share has been rising after the country recently allowed importing selective formulations from across the border.

IDMA, sources said, has written to the government to ask the Pakistani establishment to remove the restrictions on import of bulk drugs from India. The Indian bulk drug manufacturers are beginning to feel the pinch as cheap Chinese formulations have entered the market.

Sources in the Bulk Drug Manufacturers Association of India and the Pharmaceutical Exports Promotion Council of India (Pharmexcil) said Indian manufacturers of paracetamol, analgin, ciproflaxin, metronidazole and diclofenac sodium have been seriously affected due to low-value imports of drugs from China.

Minister of state for chemicals and fertilisers B.K. Handique admitted that cheap drugs from China have emerged as a major cause for concern.

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