As the dollar continues to appreciate, its impact is being felt hard, particular on the imports. Various industries are seeing an increase in production cost due to high price of raw material, and one of them is the pharmaceautical industry.
Recently, citizens received another shock in the form of medicine shortage. Essential drugs have vanished from medical stores and those pharmacies that do have a few stocks are charging exorbitant rates.
Even non-essential items are not available over the counter.
This is a serious situation as it is a matter of life and death for patients who rely on these medicines which are vital for the treatment of various ailments. Among them are vaccines, immunoglobulins for treatment of cancers, insulin and several other products. Unfortunately, there are no alternative drugs available in the market either.
Punjab has been hit hard by medicine shortage. The reason being that manufacturers have stopped or curtailed the import of active pharmaceutical ingredients (API) or raw material for producing medicines.
The rising dollar rate is the main contributing factor which has restricted importers from importing finished goods and raw material.
Another reason was the pricing issue that had risen between the pharmaceutical industry and the health ministry.
This led to patients relying on smuggled and counterfeit drugs, which were available at high prices.
The industry wants a 38 per cent increase in prices in view of inflation and currency devaluation, which the government has rejected.
As a result, companies have either stopped or reduced production of several essential and non-essential medicines.
This has in turn given rise to smuggled and counterfeit medicines which were being brought from Afghanistan, Iran and India. And, the method being employed to bring in these medicines is inappropriate. Most of the drugs are temperature-sensitive but they are being smuggled in trucks with no cold chain management. As a result, the medicine loses its efficacy.
Under such a situation, what is direly needed is to check artificial shortage and black marketing. The relevant authorities need clamp down on such practices. Besides, manufacturers should be facilitated in procuring the raw material. We should not forget that Pakistan also exports medicines to the tune of $713 million annually.
The government should lift curbs, if any, on importing essential medicines.
This issue cannot be ignored for long as thousands of lives are at risk.
The responsibility ultimately falls on the Drug Regulatory Authority of Pakistan (Drap).
It has to take measures to prevent artificial shortage of medicines and come up with a strategy to check sale of spurious and unregistered drugs.
Though it has taken certain steps that need to be appreciated, there is still.room for more.
It has decided to launch a complaint mobile application with an aim to end shortage of medicines. People as well as retailers can use this application to report shortage through geo-tagging.
Pakistan has been hit by medicine shortage far too many times, therefore, it’s high time we plugged in the loopholes to safe precious lives.