Pakistan’s economic crisis affects its healthcare system, patients struggle for essential medicines

Islamabad [Pakistan], February 26 (ANI): The ongoing economic crisis in Pakistan has badly hit the healthcare system where patients have been struggling for essential medicines. The lack of forex reserves in the country has affected Pakistan’s capacity to import the required medicines or the Active Pharmaceutical Ingredients (API) used in domestic production.

As a result, local pharmaceutical manufacturers have been forced to slash their production as patients suffer in hospitals. Doctors are forced to not perform surgeries due to the shortage of drugs and medical equipment.

As per Pakistan media reports, the operation theatres are left with less than the two-week stock of anaesthetics needed for sensitive surgeries, including for heart, cancer and kidney. The situation might also result in job losses in hospitals in Pakistan, further increasing the miseries of people.

The drug makers have blamed the financial system for the crisis in the healthcare system by claiming that commercial banks are not issuing new Letters of Credit (LCs) for their imports.

Pakistan medicine manufacturing is highly import-dependent with almost 95 per cent of the drugs requiring raw materials from other nations, including India and China. For most of the drug manufacturers, the imported materials have been held up at the Karachi port due to a shortage of dollars in the banking system.

The drug manufacturing industry has said that the cost of making drugs is constantly increasing due to rising fuel costs and transportation charges and the sharp devaluation of the Pakistani rupee.

Recently, the Pakistan Medical Association (PMA) called for the intervention of the government to prevent the situation from turning into a disaster. However, the authorities rather than taking immediate steps are still trying to assess the quantum of the shortage.

Drug retailers in Pakistan’s Punjab have said that government survey teams carried out field visits to determine the shortage of crucial medicines. The retailers revealed that the shortage of some common but important drugs is impacting the majority of the customers. These medicines include Panadol, Insulin, Brufen, Disprin, Calpol, Tegral, Nimesulide, Hepamerz, Buscopan and Rivotril, etc.

Earlier in January, Pakistan Pharmaceutical Manufacturers’ Association (PPMA) Central Chairman Syed Farooq Bukhari said that some 20-25 per cent of pharmaceutical production stands sluggish at present, The Express Tribune reported. He further said, "The worst medicine crisis would erupt in the country if current policies (ban on imports) remain in place for the next four to five-week."Earlier this month, the Pakistan government and the IMF staff concluded the ninth review of the USD 6.5 billion bailout package without a staff-level agreement. The Pakistani government had hoped that they would be able to convince the IMF about implementing the conditions in a gradual manner. However, Islamabad’s hopes were dashed during the IMF mission’s 10-day visit to Pakistan. (ANI)