Health experts estimate that Pakistan witnesses over one million cases of diarrhea each month, tragically resulting in the loss of approximately 110 children daily. Many of these young lives could be saved with the timely administration of zinc supplements.
A seminar focusing on the "Significance of Zinc for Health" recently took place at a local hotel in Karachi. The event was jointly organized by the Pakistan Zinc Society and a local pharmaceutical entity. Distinguished speakers at the seminar included Professor Nadeem Qamar, Executive Director of Cardiology, Haroon Qasim, Managing Director of the local pharmaceutical company Pharmavo, Chief Operating Officer Nadeem Rahmat, and other experts.
Medical authorities emphasized the significance of WHO pre-qualified zinc product manufacturing plants in Pakistan, marking a substantial step towards reducing dependency on foreign pharmaceutical products. This development is expected to enable both domestic and international companies to access zinc products more affordably through local firm Pharmivo, subsequently conserving valuable foreign exchange and, most importantly, helping safeguard more children's lives by preventing diarrhea-related deaths.
Dr. Abdul Bari Khan commended the WHO's pre-qualification of zinc medications produced by a Pakistani firm as a highly positive advancement for the nation. He noted that after the devastating floods in Sindh and Balochistan last year, millions of children suffered from diarrhea, with many lives saved by providing them with zinc supplements. These supplements are a crucial means to protect children from diarrhea and malnutrition.
He emphasized that UNICEF and other international donor agencies often purchase zinc products from multinational pharmaceutical companies. However, the recent WHO pre-qualification of a local plant means these products can now be procured at a fraction of the previous cost, enabling more extensive distribution throughout the country.
During the seminar, Mr Khan encouraged the pharmaceutical industry to also focus on local production of medications for tuberculosis, HIV, and cancer. He highlighted that international organizations like the Global Fund spend millions of dollars on the purchase of these drugs from international pharmaceutical giants. By locally manufacturing these drugs, Pakistan can retain this significant foreign exchange.
Dr. Khan disclosed that Pakistani pharmaceutical companies managed to export drugs and products amounting to $713 million the previous year. With these recent developments, it is anticipated that Pakistani product exports may reach one billion dollars, marking a notable achievement.
He stressed the preventability of most diarrhea-related deaths, highlighting the importance of ensuring clean water, oral rehydration solutions (ORS), and zinc supplements for children suffering from diarrhea. He also underscored the need for enhanced collaboration between the industry and medical universities.
Haroon Qasim expressed his commitment to fostering a healthier society in Pakistan and considered the WHO's pre-qualification of Pharmavo's manufacturing plant as a substantial achievement.