KARACHI: Taking stock of unavailability of 60 essential medicines in the country, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif has directed the Drug Regulatory Authority of Pakistan (DRAP) to present a comprehensive report on availability of important medicines in the country, officials in the National Health Services, Regulations and Coordination (NHSRC) said Friday.
“Under the directives from the Prime Minister’s Office, DRAP has asked all its additional directors and provincial chief drug inspectors in the country to conduct a market survey and identify the list of medicines short in the market. They have been directed to provide their report regarding unavailable medicines and duration of their shortage within a day, by July 23, 2022, to the Committee on Availability of Life Saving Drugs (CALSD) of DRAP,” an official said.
Leading physicians associated with Pakistan Psychiatric Society (PPS) as well as community pharmacists had earlier pointed out that around 60 essential medicines, including suicide-prevention drug, had vanished from the market owing to an increase in their cost of production, prompting psychiatrists to fear for high suicide cases in the country.
According to Secretary of Committee on Availability of Life Saving Drugs (CALSD) Muhammad Ayub Naveed of the DRAP, said the prime minister desires a comprehensive report after The News published a news report on unavailability of 60 medicines in the country.
“Drug shortages remain a top priority for Drug Regulatory Authority of Pakistan. The DRAP CEO has constituted CALSD to shorten the duration of shortage and ultimately preventing through proactive approach and utilising all tools, including the regulatory flexibilities and adhering to sacred responsibility of ensuring safe, efficacious, quality and affordable therapeutic goods to the people of Pakistan,” the CALSD secretary said in a communiqué to all the additional directors and provincial chief drug inspectors.
The CALSD chief said in addition to finding out availability of three major medicines, including Lithium Carbonate, Methylphenidate and Clonazepam, federal and provincial officials were asked to check the availability of class of drugs, including anti-depressants, anti-psychotics, anti-hypertensives, pain-killers, anti-tuberculosis, anti-coagulants, anti-Parkinson’s and any other drug of neurological disorder mentioned in The News report.
Earlier, PPS President Dr Imtiaz Dogar as well as Prof Dr. Iqbal Afridi, former PPS President, had pointed out that all the brands of Lithium Carbonate are not available in the market for last two to three months.
This is the most effective medicine for the treatment of several psychiatric illnesses, including bipolar disorder, they said, adding that if this drug is not made available soon, many people with psychiatric illness may commit suicide.
According to them, some other essential medicines, including methylphenidate, for the treatment of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in children and clonazepam drops and tablets for epilepsy in children and adults, were also not available in the market.
On the other hand, officials in the local pharmaceutical industry had claimed over 60 medicines, including those used for the treatment of tuberculosis, psychiatric illnesses, neurological disorders, including epilepsy, anti-depressant medicines, anti-coagulants (blood thinners), painkillers, anti-hypertensive and several other essential medicines, are not available in the community pharmacies.
According to Pakistan Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Association (PPMA) office-bearers, rupee’s devaluation was the biggest factor behind the increasing cost of production of many essential medicines, adding that cost of raw material is increasing while utilities, transportation and other costs have made it impossible for the pharmaceutical companies to manufacture many essential medicines.
They said unless the prices of medicines are increased 30 to 40 percent by the government or prices of medicines are deregulated, the unavailability of medicines would continue and feared that more companies could stop manufacturing several more medicines in the days to come.
Officials in the Drug Regulatory Authority of Pakistan (DRAP) had conceded that only eight medicines were short in the market due to the supply chain issues, including problems in release of quota of controlled medicines, adding that their committee on shortage of medicines was trying its best to make these medicines available in the country.
“Due to issues related to release of quota of controlled medicines and substances, some eight medicines are not available in the market but our officials are working with the Ministry of Narcotics Control and pharmaceutical companies to end their shortage and make them available to people,” a senior official of DRAP said.
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