Shortage of essential drugs on the local market


ISLAMABAD: Naveed Ahmed, a resident of Islamabad, had to visit a number of medical stores to purchase Fexet-D tablet but without success.

“My wife is suffering from an allergy and gets relief after taking the tablet. However, all medical stores say companies are not supplying the tablet,” he said.

“Some of the medical store owners told me that the tablet was not available in the wholesale market but may be available in small stores.”

Mr Ahmed said he went to a small shop which was also selling medicines. The owner said though the medicine was short in the market, he had a sufficient stock of it.

Mr Ahmed was not the only citizen who suffered because of the unavailability of medicines in the market.

Abdul Shakoor, who also lives in the federal capital, told Dawn that he had to buy Arinac tablet but could not find it in the market.

“After failing to get the tablet, I decided to purchase Arinac syrup but it was also not available,” he said.

It may be mentioned that Arinac, which has a number of types/ranges, is used for the symptomatic relief in nasal congestion and headache, body ache, fever and pain associated with cold and flu.

Multinational companies claim Drap responsible for shortage

“It is the responsibility of the government and the regulatory bodies to ensure the availability of medicines. However, it seems now even medicines will be sold in the black market,” he said.

Dawn visited a number of medical stores in the capital and learnt that some medicines were not available in the market.

Fakhir Raza Chaudhry, who holds a bachelor of pharmacy degree and runs a medical store, told Dawn that medicines such as Panadol CF and Telfast D were not available in the market.

“Angicid is the only medicine for patients having heart problems but it is also not available in the market. People are ready to pay four times more but they cannot get it,” he said.

Angicid tablet widens the blood vessels in case of a severe heart problem.

“It is unfortunate that not only medicines are not available but there is no proper mechanism to regulate them. Most of the companies charge different rates for medicines in medical stores, hospitals and other places,” he said.

“Because of the different prices, patients become doubtful if the drugs are genuine or spurious. The Drug Regulatory Authority of Pakistan (Drap) should ensure a uniform price of a drug,” he said.

When contacted, Pharma Bureau, the representative body of multinational companies, held Drap responsible for the shortage of medicines.

Pharma Bureau executive director Ayesha Tammy Haq said the strict control on Ephedrine, Pseudoephedrine and other active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs) had created the shortage.

APIs are used in cough and cold syrups, psychotherapeutic drugs and other medicines. However, a scandal in which companies increased their quota of APIs unnecessarily rocked the industry and the regulatory bodies in 2012. The matter was later taken up by the Supreme Court and it emerged that a number of bureaucrats and political personalities were involved in the scam. Some bureaucrats were even sent to jail. In 2013, a new SOP for the allocation of APIs was prepared.

Ms Haq said narcotics-based raw materials, both imported and locally acquired, were used for the production of a number of life-saving therapies, anti-depressants, cough and cold syrups and tablets for which a special permission was granted by the Narcotics Control in consultation with Drap.

“This year, the announcement of the quota was due in January 2016 but it was made in March and the delay created the shortage of important drugs. Medicines containing imported APIs would not be available till May because raw material is manufactured on an order which cannot be placed without the approval of Drap. The government should take steps to address the issue,” she said.

Drap CEO Dr Mohammad Aslam said it was a very sensitive issue and directly related with the Narcotics Control Board.

“We are in touch with the companies to address the issue but the firms should also cooperate to address it. Some companies do not provide data and their requirements on time due to which the matter is delayed.”

He said this year there were some other issues which delayed the approval of APIs. “Hopefully, we will process the cases on time from the next year,” he said.

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