By Sardar Khan Niazi
Floodwater has not receded in many flood-hit areas, which has caused outbreaks of various epidemics. Philanthropists, welfare organizations, and citizens are donating besides other things medicines for common ailments. However, the country needs more of the required medicines.
The situation has put the lives of thousands of people living in crowded camps at risk and their helpers are making rounds to different pharmacies but returning empty-handed. The shortage has also affected the supply of medicinal drugs used in pathological laboratories during various tests.
The entire flood-hit areas remain deprived of the most basic of their rights, such as healthcare. The medical camps are treating a huge number of people suffering from dengue, malaria, cholera, diarrhea, typhoid, and eye and skin infections, on a daily basis. This has created a huge increase in the demand for medicines.
As waterborne and mosquito-borne diseases break out in the aftermath of relentless rains and devastating floods in the country, medicines for several ailments have virtually disappeared from the market. This situation is distressing for the doctors who are providing medical treatment in flood-hit areas.
The healthcare system is facing a shortage of many kinds of medicines. The drug most needed in the post-flood era is not available in the market. The most useful medicine in flood-hit areas is panadol.
Primarily used as a cold or flu medicine, it is also useful in cases of dengue and other viral infections. It is an antipyretic, which controls symptoms and allows the patient to recover from the danger of high-grade fever.
Unfortunately, Panadol went off the market, after a pricing dispute with the government ended with the manufacturers deciding to stop making it, as it did not make economic sense to keep making it at the price the government allowed.
The government should have ensured the availability of Panadol, either by subsidizing its manufacture or by obtaining supplies at least for itself, at an economic price for the manufacturer. The poor planning perhaps has caused a shortage of medicines. This is too disturbing a trend of official neglect of citizens’ needs.
Taking advantage of the situation, some pharma companies have demanded an increase in the prices of their products, while adding that these companies are either hoarding stocks or selling them only to retailers, which has led to a shortage of medicines in the market.
Some have blamed the continuous appreciation of the US dollar for the shortage, saying that the depreciating rupee negatively affects the purchase of raw materials for medicines.
Pakistan Pharmaceutical Manufacturing Association (PPMA) says the imposition of sales tax on the raw materials has increased the cost of manufacturing medicines and with current prices set by the government; they have no other option than to stop the import of the material.
The production cannot restart until the government removes the tax. Manufacturing will only become possible after the abolishment of tax.
Whoever in government is responsible for overseeing pharmacies and medical supply should explain this shortage and have a clear plan to replenish the missing medicine in the shortest possible time.
Waterborne diseases are spreading. Doctors do not have enough medicine to treat displaced people living in crowded camps.
The flooding has left behind unsanitary conditions in which dangerous pathogens are spreading. Medicine and clean water are scarce. Stagnant rainwater used for drinking and washing is spreading disease.
In order to stop the spread of waterborne diseases after the flooding medicine is the biggest demand. Pharmacies are out of painkillers, antibiotics, and medicines for skin and gynecological issues, diabetes, and eye infections.
Health Department authorities are trying their best to ensure the availability of medicines but things are getting out of their control. Pakistan needs more medicines.