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Row Over Pricing Triggers Shortage Of Medicines In Pak

A tug-of-war between pharmaceutical manufacturers and Pakistan’s drug regulatory body is threatening to turn into a crisis after a decision by local companies to stop production of several drugs has led to shortages of medicines. A list of around 40 different medicines, compiled by health professionals from leading public and private sector hospitals indicates that several locally manufactured tablets, syrups, injections and ointments or drops are no longer available. A senior pharmacist who was part of the team that compiled the list for the authorities in July told Dawn that these medicines include prescriptions for several conditions. For example, all the brands of Lithium Carbonate—used to treat mental health issues and often referred to as ‘suicide prevention drugs’—are not available in the market. In addition, essential medicines, including methylphenidate for the treatment of attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder in children and clonazepam drops and tablets for epilepsy in children and adults, have not been available for the past several weeks. Medicines for patients of tuberculosis, epilepsy, Parkinson’s, cardiovascular disease and other conditions are also not available. Manufacturers have been complaining about rising prices of raw material in the international market, resulting in an elevated production cost, which they insist can only be met through a 40 per cent increase in prices across the board. This demand is facing resistance from the government, which sounded the alarm on the growing shortage of medicines last month when a task force was set up by Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif to look into the crisis. The task force met leaders of the pharmaceutical industry, who forwarded their proposals for increasing the prices, citing growing cost of production.

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