Zinc Supplementation Improves Diarrheal Treatment which cans save lives of thousands of Children
(Originally published in Pulse Pakistan)
ISLAMABAD: Diarrhea causes deaths of around 110 children every day in Pakistan and these lives can be saved by using inexpensive pharmaceutical interventions including administration of Zinc along with Oral Rehydrating Solutions (ORS). This was stated by eminent health experts and officials while speaking at a meeting held here recently. They said thousands of lives of children were saved in the flood-affected areas of Sindh and Baluchistan last year when they were given Zinc supplements along with oral rehydrating solutions. World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines also endorse Zinc supplementation which improves the diarrheal treatment.
Lauding the production of Zinc products at World Health Organization (WHO) prequalified plant of local pharmaceutical firm PharmEvo in Pakistan, they said Pakistan could not only save lives of thousands of children by giving them WHO prequalified nutritional supplements but also save precious foreign exchange by buying these products from the local market.
Speaking at a meeting “Importance of Zinc in Human Health and WHO Prequalification”, jointly organized by Ministry of National Health Services, Regulations and Coordination in collaboration with local pharmaceutical firm PharmEvo, Federal Health Secretary Mr. Iftikhar Shalwani, stated that “Production of two Zinc products by the local pharmaceutical firm PharmEvo at their World Health Organization (WHO) prequalified plant is a great achievement for the Pakistani pharmaceutical industry. Now instead of importing these products by spending valuable foreign exchange, we can purchase them from our local company and use them to save lives of children, who die due to diarrhea on daily basis”. He commended the role of pharmaceutical industry in control and treatment of diseases, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic in the country. Drug Regulatory Authority of Pakistan (DRAP) Chief Asim Rauf and all officials deserve praise and congratulations for this achievement, Mr. Iftikhar Shallwani added.
Director General Health Dr. Baseer Achakzai said Zinc products given to children in flood affected areas of Sindh and Baluchistan saved lives of thousands of children. It is an important intervention that not only prevents and treats diarrhea but it also helps in overcoming malnutrition among children. “Last year, we distributed thousands of bottles and packs of Zinc products to the flood-affected areas of Baluchistan as well as Sindh which saved lives of thousands of children who would have died if they were not given Zinc and oral rehydrating solutions”, Dr. Baseer Achakzai added.
He maintained that international donor organizations including UNICEF and others purchase Zinc and other nutritional products from other countries but after WHO prequalification, Zinc products can be purchased from the local companies.
DRAP Chief Executive Officer Dr. Asim Rauf said Pakistan exported medicines and therapeutic goods worth 713 million US$ last year and now their target was to export pharmaceutical products worth one billion US$.“WHO prequalification of pharmaceutical plant for Zinc products is a giant leap and it would add to our pharmaceutical exports. We are also giving incentives on local production of medicines’ raw material, which will also decrease our dependence on imported API and reduce our import bill”, Asim Rauf added.
Vice Chancellor, Health Services Academy (HSA) Prof. Shahzad Ali Khan said of diarrhea is the second leading cause of death of children under five years of age but added that half of the deaths due to diarrhea in children are reported from Pakistan, India and Nigeria.
“Majority of deaths due to diarrhea are preventable by administration of Zinc, ORS and fluid maintenance. It is encouraging that two Zinc products by the PharmEvo are being manufactured at WHO prequalified manufacturing facility”, He also called for linkages between academia and pharma industry and appropriate utilization of Central Research Fund (CRF) of DRAP for research in pharmaceuticals.
Managing Director PharmEvo Mr. Haroon Qasim said they were striving for the realization of their dream of a healthy society in Pakistan and acquiring WHO prequalification for two of their products was another step in that direction. “We have never obliged anybody personally and used our resources for the capacity building, research and development as best manufacturing practices”, he added.
The meeting was also addressed by Chief of Party US Pharmacopeia Waqar Ahmed, Chairman PPMA Farooq Bukhari, Chief Operating Officer (CCO) PharmEvo Nadeem Rehmat, Shahzad Afzal from the Nutrition International, Abdus Samad from PharmEvo and others from DRAP and pharmaceutical industry.