A drug shortage is being widely reported across Karachi with medicines used to treat fever and gastro diseases in short supply, raising questions on companies' ability to enhance output at a time when Pakistan deals with the aftermath of devastating floods.
Experts in the industry have said people have been sending large quantities of medicines to flood victims, but a shortage is being seen as output has barely kept pace with demand.
Industry sources say some pharma companies have either reduced or stopped producing low-cost medicines because of the increased cost of production. They said the production hindrance comes on the back of an inability to increase prices because they are regulated.
Pharmacies in the city informed that Panadol, Calpol, Dolor, Disprol, Febrol, Brufen, and Nuberol, which are normally administered to treat fever and pain, have been in low supply.
Mohammad Umair, a salesperson at a medicine store, told Business Recorder that a strip of ten tablets, which normally has a retail price of Rs17, has been selling for Rs50 because of its high price in the black market. A medicine used for the treatment of dengue fever Re-plat is also in short supply.
Meanwhile, medicines that are used for gastrointestinal issues such as Gaviscon, Entamezol, Enterogermina, Metodine, Metrozine, Gravinate, and Biflor are also widely unavailable.
Dr Kaiser Waheed, former chairman at the Pakistan Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Association (PPMA), said philanthropists have been sending large quantities to flood-affected areas, and the shortage is mainly because of the high demand.
Waheed, also president and CEO of Medisure Laboratories, added that some companies have also reduced or stopped production of some medicines because their costs went up significantly due to rupee depreciation as well as an increase in rates of international raw material.
But Waheed said oil prices have now come down and the overall cost of production may also decrease, making it viable for companies to manufacture those drugs.
Another source from the sector, while requesting anonymity, said hoarders are also active during these times when there’s high demand, choking supply further.
Shortage of drugs is not a new phenomenon in Pakistan.
Back in June, Pakistan Pharmaceutical Manufacturers' Association (PPMA) Chairman Mansoor Dilawar had said that around 40 to 50 medicines were in short supply, and the number would soon cross 100.
Dilawar had told Business Recorder that over 40 life-saving drugs were not available after the pharma industry decided not to import raw materials because of GST imposition.