Islamabad: The Pakistan government on Tuesday allowed the import of life-saving drugs from India, despite the escalation of tensions with the country and closure of all trade and diplomatic channels since August 5.

The decision has been taken in view of an acute shortage of essential medicines, including those used in treatment of cancer and heart diseases, anti-rabies and antivenin drugs, those used for treatment in hepatitis and liver-related ailments.

There is also a shortage of raw material that is imported from India for manufacturing medicines in Pakistan.

The Ministry of Commerce issued the Statutory Regulatory Order (SRO) in this regard to amend the Export Import Order, 2016. The Ministry has released the SRO after approval of the federal government.

Doctors, pharmacists and medical petitioners have hailed the government’s decision.

Last month, Pakistan suspended its trade relations with India in retaliation against New Delhi’s decision to revoke Article 370 and 35-A of the Constitution depriving Indian-administered Jammu and Kashmir of its special status.

The trade ban on Indian products hit the local market, particularly the pharmaceutical market that imported $36 million (Dh132.2 million) worth of anti-rabies and antivenin vaccines from India over the last 16 months products.

Pakistani pharmaceutical companies import more than 50 per cent of their raw material from India and China to produce medicines.

According to Khwaja Shahzeb Akram, president of the pharmaceutical committee at the Federation of Pakistan Chambers and Commerce Industries, a big chunk of the raw material used in locally produced medicines is imported from India since the country has a large internationally recognised industry of raw materials for medicines.

Products from MNCs are at least 10 times more expensive than the ones imported from India, said an official of Pakistan’s Ministry of National Health Services.

According to one survey, a strip of 10 Zantac tablets costs Pakistan Rs90 (Dh2.11) compared to India Rs14 (Dh0.71).

Similarly MNC’s ciprofloxacin is available for Pakistan Rs520 whereas the Indian version costs only Pakistan Rs21.

A senior doctor at Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences (PIMS) Islamabad Dr Waseem Khawaja told Gulf News that a number of Indian-imported items were being used in health facilities of the twin cities. An official at PIMS pharmacy who did not want to be named said the hospital was running out of anti-rabies and antivenin drugs and permission to allow life-saving drugs’ import will greatly benefit patients.

A senior doctor at the oncology department said cancer patients in the advanced stage mostly relied on chemotherapy drugs that are used for curative treatment and almost 90 per cent of them are Indian-made and quite affordable.

During the last couple of weeks we were facing problems because of the shortage of chemotherapy drugs and hopefully in next couple of days we shall be having them as ban on life-saving drugs is reportedly lifted, said the doctor.