Two weeks ago, 60 essential medicines vanished from the market due to a stop in production by numerous pharmaceutical companies. This prompted PM Shehbaz Sharif to order an inquiry into this issue and ever since, the tussle between the Drug Regulatory Authority of Pakistan (DRAP) and the pharmaceutical industry has remained strong. In between arguing about increasing or maintaining medicine prices, countless patients have faced unnecessary hardships and health complications. Given that this shortage could come with a death toll, greater discussions and action must be carried out immediately.

According to the report, companies have decided to stop producing drugs that prevent suicide, treat bipolar disorder, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and epilepsy because of the increased price of raw materials in the international market. These bodies insist that the cost of production has gone up to such a degree that they can only be met through a 40 percent increase in medicine prices—an exaggerated phenomenon according to the authorities. This feud is now entering the third week, signalling towards an even graver shortage in the near future because production has been halted for an extended period of time. In the meantime, health professionals are already reporting the alarming impact of a lack of medicines for treatment.

It is safe to say that the DRAP is doing the right thing by blocking the industry’s move to increase prices across the board. Healthcare is already inaccessible to the majority in the country and with a price hike, treatment will become a luxury rather than a right. However, perhaps what could be done is to view production costs on a case-by-case basis so that adjustments can be made wherever absolutely necessary. This middle ground seems to be the only solution moving forward and it is imperative that both sides cooperate because countless lives are hanging in the balance.