Upcoming health crisis in Pakistan, Medicine shortage rings alarm bells

Medicine scarcity may lead to crisis in healthcare system 

The country has faced a number of economic challenges in the past, including a high budget deficit, a large current account deficit, and high inflation. However, the recent downwards trajectory of the national economy during the past few months has affected most sectors, including health.

Medicine shortage can have serious consequences for public health. When essential medications are not available, it can prevent people from getting the treatment they need, leading to worsening of their health conditions and, in some cases, death.

For example, if a person with diabetes is unable to get the insulin they need, their blood sugar levels can become dangerously high, leading to serious complications such as nerve damage, blindness, and kidney damage. Similarly, if a cancer patient is unable to get the chemotherapy drugs they need, their condition may progress and become more difficult to treat.

Medicine shortages can also have economic impacts. When people are unable to get the medications they need, they may be forced to go to the emergency department for treatment, leading to higher healthcare costs. In some cases, people may also be unable to work due to their health condition, leading to lost productivity and income.

Why is there a shortage of medicines in Pakistan?

Pakistan is a predominant importer as far as the health sector is concerned, the pharmaceutical industry relies on imported raw material (i.e. the active ingredient’s by which medicines are manufactured). The rising inflation which has been in 20-30% from the previous norm of 10-15 % as well as the currency devaluation has led to increase in cost of manufacturing, as well as, squeezed the margins. 

What led to paracetamol shortage in Pakistan?

The paracetamol shortage in Pakistan resulted from the dispute of drug manufacturers and the Govt of Pakistan regarding price increase. The Govt was not allowing increase in price, while manufacturers were adamant about increase in cost to cope with manufacturing expenses.

Multinational companies that solely rely on import have been much adversely affected, with the recent example of paracetamol shortage few months back, which led to unavailability of the common medicine for fever/pain throughout the country, much to the agony of common people.

In addition to medicines, medical supplies e.g. instruments, medical devices and kits for diagnostic tests, accessories have also taken the impact with either sharp increase in prices or unavailability altogether.

Concern for medicine shortage in Pakistan in 2023

Now things have taken the turn for worse, with the countries’ economy showing no signs of improvement and shortage of foreign exchange and resultant bar on L.C has led to disruption in the import of raw materials for medicine production, moreover, some pharmaceutical companies have announced to close or limit their production if no concrete steps are not taken. 

Several medicines have started disappearing from the store shelves, including medications for diabetics e.g. Insulin. Anti-depressants e.g. prothiadin are also now hard to find, which has lead to significant concern among the patients.

There is a need for proactive action regarding the health sector issues, so that life-saving medicine availability is not compromised nor the prices get out of reach of a common man

Governments and healthcare organizations may take steps to mitigate the impact of medicine shortages, such as by finding alternative sources of medication or rationing limited supplies. However, these measures can be inadequate and may not fully address the problem.

In conclusion, medicine shortages can have serious consequences for public health and the economy. It is important for governments and healthcare organizations to take steps to prevent and address shortages in order to ensure that people have access to the medications they need.

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