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Pakistan faces shortage of medicines
Publication Date : 11-10-2013
Some key medicines, including life-saving drugs, cough syrups and painkillers, are being sold for twice their original prices as they are not easily available in markets.
Retailers and wholesalers with stocks of these drugs are fully exploiting the shortage.
Some of the prominent medicines are Avil injection, Sosegon injection, Stilnox tablets, Panadol plain, Panadol CF tablets, Nuberol Forte, Optalidon, Trisil, Sancos syrup, Benatuss, Xaltide inhaler for asthma, Salbo inhaler and Ativan.
Medicine dealers are charging 15 Pakistani rupees for a Panadol strip plain at retail stage. Some are demanding 20 Pakistani rupees, attributing the price hike at the wholesale trade.
The box of Panadol of 160 tablets now costs 200 Pakistani rupees compared to 160 Pakistani rupees at wholesale market, they said, disagreeing that retailers are responsible for the price hike.
“How can we sell Panadol at its actual retail price when we get it at higher rates?” they asked.
Similarly, Ativan tablet, according to the retailers, also costs 10 Pakistani rupees but it is available at 20 Pakistani rupees at wholesale. Xaltide Inhaler rate is 195 Pakistani rupees but it is available at triple the original retail price.
For consumers, shortage of medicines and the blackmarketing have become a routine. But the Drug Regulatory Authority of Pakistan (DRAP) has not taken any serious step to check whether the shortage is genuine.
Retailers said shortage also looms in some antibiotics. According to chemists, a few important drugs that are short include Gelusil (a leading antacid), Acefyl syrup (for cough), Xanax (used to treat anxiety and panic disorder) and Erythrocin antibiotic.
Sources in the pharmaceutical industry said many drugs made through toll manufacturing (arrangement between multinational and local under contract manufacturing) are not being produced due to non-issuance of licenses by the Drug Regulatory Authority (DRA).
Pharma Bureau chairman Tariq Wajid told Dawn on Thursday that currently the industry was facing two serious issues. First, toll/contract manufacturing renewals and policy decision on it, which is causing hardship to patients as the manufactures have stopped manufacturing products under toll manufacturing agreements.
“We’ll need economic revival and toll manufacturing is the win-win situation where patients get economical medicines and international quality standards,” he said.
The second issue, Wajid said, was devaluation of the rupee and increase in the cost of utilities and other items.
Wajid said drugs were also being smuggled out of the country because of their “very low” prices, thus creating shortage in the market.
Pakistan Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Association (PPMA) chairman Jawed Akhai said the government should allow manufacturing of drugs under toll/contracts otherwise more severe shortage will hit the consumers.
He said the government should allow a price increase of at least 30 per cent across the board. “There is a need to fix minimum price of 2 Pakistani rupees per tablet,” he said, referring to different prices of tablets ranging from 75 paisa to 1 Pakistani rupees per tablet.
A drug manufacturer said that to save costs many reputable companies, particularly multinationals, have outsourced their products to the domestic pharmaceutical firms with best manufacturing practices.
He said, “Currently there are around 200 highly consumed medicines manufactured by the domestic companies on the permission of renowned global manufacturers. Besides the DRA, the foreign principals also keep close watch on the quality of these medicines.”
He said the pricing was becoming a major impediment for continuity in supply of life-saving quality medicines.
The pharmaceutical industry could not increase prices on its own and had to seek approval from the government which was last given in 2001, he added.
“Since then the industry has been demanding a uniform pricing mechanism so that it can foresee its profitability and plan expansions and further investments.”
US$1= 106.2 Pakistani rupees