Friday May 17, 2024

131 medicines not available in federal capital: officials

By M Waqar Bhatti
March 04, 2023

ISLAMABAD: The drug control section of the Islamabad health department has identified some 131 medicines including some essential and life-saving medicines which are currently not available at the pharmacies in the capital and urged the Drug Regulatory Authority of Pakistan (DRAP) to ensure their availability in the market.

“During a recent market survey conducted by the drug inspectors of Islamabad, there is a shortage of drugs mentioned in the list enclosed (131), thereby creating inconvenience for the patients”, says a letter by the Secretary of Quality Control Board, Islamabad Sardar Shabbir Ahmed.

The letter addressed to DRAP’s focal person on the availability of drugs, Ayub Naveed, further says that necessary measures are required by the DRAP to ensure an uninterrupted supply of medicines in the market to protect the lives of patients as well as help in treating patients.

Commenting on the shortage of medicines, an official of the National Health Services, Regulations and Coordination (NHS,R&C) told The News that the list of 131 currently not available at the pharmacies in Islamabad and other cities of Islamabad contains some ‘life-saving’ and ‘essential’ medicines while it also contains some skin ointments, multivitamins and other therapeutic products. “Actually, it is the responsibility of the drug inspectors to look at the availability of the drugs at the pharmacies and medical stores. When they see a considerable shortage of medicines in the market, they report it to their superiors and the department, which brings it to the notice of DRAP”, the official explained.

According to the NHS official, the survey conducted by Islamabad’s drug inspectors took a whole week to gather information on unavailable drugs and on the basis of their input, a comprehensive list of medicines including those known as ‘life-saving and essential drugs’ was compiled and forwarded to the DRAP’s focal person for action. A detailed analysis of the list forwarded to the DRAP shows that most of the unavailable drugs are those manufactured by multinational companies and some by local pharmaceutical companies while some local companies’ medicines are also not available in the market.

A representative of a leading multinational pharmaceutical company, who requested anonymity fearing backlash from the authorities, told The News that a list of 119 drugs was lying with the government, and despite recommendations from the DRAP and Minister of National Health Services, Regulations and Coordination (NHS,R&C), the government was not willing to increase their price forcing the manufacturers to abandon their production.

“Our company is not manufacturing around 30 to 40 medicines as their cost of production has exceeded the maximum retail price given to us by the DRAP. We have applied for the price increase but the government is not willing to accept the recommendations of the DRAP and the federal health ministry”, the official added.

In order to bring their hardships to the notice of the federal government, Pakistan Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Association (PPMA) has called for a meeting with federal health minister Abdul Qadir Patel and finance minister Ishaq Dar but so far, both the officials have not agreed to the meeting, knowing that PPMA would once again demand an ‘across the board’ increase in the prices of medicines.

Ruling out the possibility of any across-the-board increase in the prices of medicines, an official of the DRAP said pharmaceutical companies have earned billions from Pakistan and now it is the right time they sacrifice their profits as people could not afford any further increase in the prices of medicines. “We have forwarded the list of 119 medicines whose cost of production has exceeded the production cost to the federal government. Now it is with the federal authorities to decide whether to increase their prices or not”, the official said.

To a query regarding the unavailability of 131 medicines, the DRAP official said most of the drugs in the list were brands, whose alternates were available and added that if any drug is not being manufactured in the country, hospitals, pharmacies and common people could import them after getting NOC from the DRAP.