The health sector in Pakistan is on the precipice of a crisis as vital medicines slowly vanish from the market in Karachi. This alarming situation, ongoing for the past six months, can be attributed to the negligence of the Drug Regulatory Authority of Pakistan (DRAP), as highlighted by the medical community. The scarcity of essential medicines, coupled with exorbitant prices and the hoarding of medications for rare conditions, has created a grave and multifaceted predicament.
Over the past six months, the prices of medicines have skyrocketed by 50-70%. This surge, combined with the hoarding of medications for rare conditions, poses a significant threat to public health. Heart disease patients, for instance, lament the inaccessibility of vital medications, making treatment unattainable due to their exorbitant costs.
Recent surveys have revealed a distressing shortage of insulin for diabetes patients in the Karachi market. Concurrently, life-saving drugs essential for controlling blood pressure and other crucial conditions fetch steep prices in the black market. Drug manufacturers attribute these soaring prices to the escalating value of the dollar in the market. Heavy reliance on imports for manufacturing medicines has caused imported raw materials to become prohibitively expensive.
The ramifications of this medical scarcity extend beyond the unavailability of essential medicines. Government hospitals in Sindh are experiencing a gradual reduction in facilities, including X-ray, CT scan, MRI, and laboratory services. This regrettable situation disproportionately affects low-income patients who rely on these services. District government hospitals in six districts of Karachi, boasting 14 major hospitals, have been downscaled to function solely as outpatient departments (OPD).
Immediate and robust action from the authorities is imperative, particularly considering the alarming incidence of malaria and fever reported in Sindh. History serves as a reminder, with past inadequacies in decision-making leading to shortages like the Panadol crisis. To avert a repeat of such a catastrophic scenario, swift measures must be taken to address the scarcity of vital medicines. Authorities must learn from past mistakes and take decisive steps to ensure the availability of essential medications, as failure to act swiftly will have severe consequences for public health in Pakistan.