Whither healthcare: High prices, black market drive medicines out
KARACHI: The health sector might head towards a crisis situation as some vital medicines are slowly disappearing from the market in Karachi, which the doctors and other stakeholders attribute to the negligence of the Drug Regulatory Authority of Pakistan (DRAP).
A survey shows that insulin for diabetes patients has disappeared from the market in Karachi, while the medicines to control blood pressure and other life-saving drugs are being sold at steep prices in the ‘black market’.
In the past 6 months, medicine prices have seen 50-70% increase. People say that DRAP is not serious in resolving this issue, which might lead to a serious threat to the public health. Besides, the exorbitant prices, the hoarding of medicines for rare conditions had also become a serious problem.
“Blood pressure control drugs are becoming extinct,” said a source in the Wholesale and Chemists Association. “On the other hand, there is the shortage of drugs used to treat epilepsy and the anti-depressants. These are being sold at very high prices in the market.”
The situation is adding to the mental stress on those who want these medicines. “Because of the shortage and black marketing, drugs have gone beyond the reach of poor patients. People are under severe mental stress due to the current situation,” the source added.
According to several patients at a hospital in Karachi, all the medicines used in the treatment of heart diseases have gone out reach. “Treatment is not possible due to expensive medicines,” one of the patients said, while speaking on condition of anonymity.
A doctor told Daily City News that in some diseases it is necessary to prescribe tranquilisers to the patients but due to the high prices of these medicines, serious complications are being diagnosed among the patients.
The drug manufacturers say that the escalating dollar in the market is the reason for the high prices because the country heavily relied on imports to make the medicines. The dollar, they say, has reached its highest level and the raw materials, imported from abroad, have become very expensive.
The situation has other spill-over effects. It is learnt that facilities at the government hospitals in Sindh – such as X-ray, CT scan, MRI and laboratory facilities, have been gradually limited. As a result, the poor patients suffer the most.
The district government hospitals in the six district of Karachi – which boasts of 14 major hospitals – have been limited to OPD [outpatients department] only.
These hospitals have the treatment facilities for various types of complex diseases.