There seems to be a dengue emergency on the horizon as cases are increasing rapidly across the country. The Federal Climate Change Minister Sherry Rehman has revealed that there has been at least a 50 percent increase in the incidence of dengue all across the country. The situation in Karachi however has been particularly severe as there have been around 3,300 cases of dengue in Karachi this year; of these 1,066 have been reported in September alone. Some experts estimate that the number of patients being treated for dengue symptoms on any given day in Karachi nowadays is in the thousands.

As has been witnessed several times in the past, opportunists are always around the corner to exploit such situations as reports of testing prices being jacked up significantly by hospitals and laboratories. The management of diseases such as malaria and dengue requires repeated tests which imposes a heavy financial burden on poor patients.

As per reports, rates for the dengue NS1 antigen were ranging from Rs 1,460 to Rs 3,000, around Rs 550 for a platelet count test, and Rs 1,300 for the ICT Malaria test. These prices are more than double what is usually charged and it is absolutely criminal how the vulnerable are exploited in a time of need and desperation. This is a result of poor regulatory and market controls on part of the authorities as a result of which producers and wholesalers find it easy to increase their margins at the expense of the common man.

Thankfully, the Sindh Health Care Commission has issued a notification for the immediate reduction of prices and has authorised teams to monitor the labs and hospitals for compliance. This should not have happened in the first place, however. We frequently witness the prices of essential medicines shooting up until the authorities are woken up from their slumber. It is high time that the government adopts a more proactive approach and works on regulating prices otherwise this will continue to be a regular occurrence across sectors.