Islamabad: Every day in Pakistan, more than 110 children lose their lives due to diarrhea, with the majority of deaths preventable through the provision of zinc supplements.
According to details, officials from the federal health ministry and health experts addressed a seminar in Islamabad highlighting the importance of zinc for health. They revealed that every day in Pakistan, over 110 children die due to diarrhea, and most of these deaths can be prevented by providing zinc supplements. Last year, thousands of children in Sindh and Balochistan were provided with zinc supplements along with oral rehydration salts (ORS), resulting in a significant reduction in diarrheal cases and related fatalities.
The awareness seminar was organized by the federal health ministry and local pharmaceutical company PharmEvo. Prominent personalities, including the Federal Health Secretary Iftikhar Iftikhar Shallwani, Director General Health Dr. Baseer Achakzai, Chief Executive Officer of the Drug Regulatory Authority of Pakistan Asim Rauf, Vice-Chancellor of Health Services Academy Professor Shahzad Ali Khan, Chairman of the Pakistan Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Association Syed Farooq Bukhari, Managing Director of PharmEvo Haroon Qasim, Chief Operating Officer Nadim Rehmat, Technical Expert from Nutrition International Shahzad Azeem, representatives from the United States Pharmacopeia (USP), Waqas Ahmed, Abdul Samad, and others delivered speeches.
During the seminar, Federal Health Secretary Iftikhar Shallwani emphasized that the production of zinc-based products in globally certified plants in Pakistan is highly commendable, as it reduces reliance on imported pharmaceutical products.
He stated that local and international organizations purchase zinc-based products from multinational pharmaceutical companies, but now, with the declaration of the WHO-prequalified plant by PharmEvo, these products will be available to these organizations at lower prices. This not only saves valuable foreign exchange but also enables the provision of zinc to a larger number of children, protecting them from diarrhea and the resulting fatalities.
Dr. Baseer Achakzai, Director of General Health Services Pakistan, mentioned that after the devastating floods in Sindh and Balochistan last year, hundreds of thousands of children were affected by diarrhea. However, a significant number of these children were saved through the provision of zinc supplements.
He emphasized that zinc plays a vital role in preventing diarrhea and saving lives, and its administration alongside ORS to affected children is crucial. UNICEF and other international donor agencies procure zinc-based products from multinational pharmaceutical companies. However, with the progress made in PharmEvo’s WHO-prequalified plant, these products will be available to these organizations in multiple formulations, reaching various parts of the country.
On this occasion, he advised the pharmaceutical industry to manufacture tuberculosis, HIV, and cancer medicines locally, as the procurement of these medicines from global funds and other international organizations costs between $200 to $300 million annually, which goes into the accounts of international pharmaceutical companies. By locally producing these medicines, Pakistan can save valuable foreign exchange.
The Chief Executive Officer of the Drug Regulatory Authority of Pakistan, Asim Rauf, congratulated PharmEvo’s WHO-prequalified plant and expressed hope that the export of Pakistani medicines and products will increase after the progress achieved by PharmEvo. He stated that Pakistani pharmaceutical companies exported medicines and products worth $713 million last year, and with further advancements in PharmEvo, the country’s exports can reach up to one billion dollars.
Professor Shahzad Ali Khan, Vice-Chancellor of Health Services Academy Islamabad, mentioned that diarrhea is the second leading cause of death among children, and unfortunately, 50% of children dying from diarrhea are from Pakistan, India, and Nigeria.
He highlighted that most deaths from diarrhea can be prevented through the provision of clean water and the administration of zinc supplements alongside ORS.
Haroon Qasim, Managing Director of PharmEvo, stated that their company is dedicated to establishing a healthier society in Pakistan. The prequalification of their plant by WHO is a significant milestone in this regard. He emphasized that their company upholds ethical values in the healthcare sector and is committed to enhancing and promoting them. PharmEvo believes in obtaining international guidelines and certifications, including those of the World Health Organization and other global institutions.