Pharma Companies Cold To Iraq Market

New Delhi, May 22: | Updated: May 23 2003, 05:30am hrs
Even as there exists some opportunities to supply medicines in the war-torn Iraq, the reaction of the domestic pharma industry is varying from indifference to expressing fears about American reaction and making excuses. On the other hand, the Kuwaiti ambassador to India has criticised the pharma companies for not responding to purchase enquiries from the region.

At the same time, sources say the external affairs ministry is stonewalling efforts of charity groups to send in medicines to the war-ravaged country.

Some companies and NGOs have been doing the rounds of the ministry to supply medicines to Iraq. Jamait Ulema, an NGO, had to go to great lengths to get the approval from the ministry to send the shipments. The ministry was keen to know as to how the NGO knew what needed to be sent, and the purpose of the same.

A representative of the Red Cross presented a list of what it thought was required in Iraq. The NGO finally managed to send two shipments of 10 tonne each though, says a member of the group.

Sensing that the ministry is not encouraging any such initiatives, an industry source said, perhaps the government is concerned about the US reaction. The reasons could be promoting interests of American firms, an issue of supplying generic versions of patented medicines or some other reason.

On whether there is a problem from the American side about Indian pharma products for Iraq, Kuwaiti envoy Abdullah al Murad told FE, we in Kuwait dont know much about the Indian pharma industry. We keep hearing that the products are good. But we dont find anyone making attempts to visit Kuwait to check the potentials.

Ranbaxy Laboratories has a presence in the West Asian market, but is not particularly excited about the opportunities in Iraq. A company spokesperson has said the market is too small as a percentage of the companys global sales to merit much attention.

But an Alembic official said, supplies contracted by the previous Iraqi regime are being honoured through the WHO. We have one of our shipments held up at a port and arrangements have to be made to send it to another port designated for such imports. While there are minor issues like who will bear the cost of transporting, we expect it to be resolved soon. The company is hopeful that it will get more orders through the WHO, says the official.