Drug manufacturing suffers as Pakistan scandal heats up

Some of the players in Pakistan ephedrine scandal that has transfixed the country but wreaked havoc with legitimate drug manufacturing there, are turning on one another as the noose tightens in the case. 

Several of the accused have become approvers, essentially state's witnesses, giving statements that implicate other officials in the alleged scheme, which is tied to government officials and the son of the former prime minister, The Express Tribune reports. Meanwhile top executives at two of the pharmaceutical companies implicated in the scheme have been sent to jail after four days of interrogation.

The investigation has tied up the supply chains of many drugmakers there because it has made the government loath to allot ephedrine and some other raw ingredients while it plays out. Some manufacturers, like Pfizer ($PFE) and Johnson & Johnson ($JNJ)  have warned the government that there could be shortages of some drugs if the matter is not resolved. It has also prompted a probe by the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) into why the Health Ministry in 2010 doled out about 30% more ephedrine than the INCB had allotted it. 

Hasham Khan, CEO of Cann Pharmaceutical, and Ehsanur Rehman, CEO of  Florence Pharma, have been sent to jail until July 21, The Express Mail says. Cann is accused of applying for an extra quota of ephedrine and then turning it over to Berlex Co. Florence is accused of not keeping proper records of how it used its quota of ephedrine. Berlex of Multan and Danas Pharmaceutical of Islamabad, allegedly got the increased quota to export to Iraq and Afghanistan but then diverted it to domestic production. They allegedly faked records on how it was being used and allegations are that the substance ended up in street drugs worth millions of dollars.

According to prosecutors, Dr. Rasheed Jumma, a former government health official, allocated the quotas to the two companies under pressure from Ali Musa Gilani, the son of former Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani, as well as by former Health Minister Makhdoom Shahabuddin, and former Health Secretary Khushnud Lashari. He has become an approver and testified that he was told he would lose his job if he didn't make the allocations. The newspaper says Rizwan Khan, a former director of Danas Pharmaceutical, which has also been implicated, has also become an approver and is giving statements to investigators.

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