LAHORE: The months-long shortage of the widely used over-thea-counter (OTC) drug – paracetamol – has intensified hardships of the patients as they are unable to purchase it even at double price.

Particularly, the shortage of Panadol [tablets] has hit the province hard and the situation is getting from bad to worse due to the resurgence of dengue and Covid infections as medics prescribe it to relieve pain and control fever.

On the other hand, the Punjab health authorities seem ‘indifferent’ to the plight of the patients, claiming that the drug is not in short supply anywhere in the province.

Panadol is the most selling brand all over the country and Punjab has been at the top among other provinces where the demand of the drug remains high.

The health professionals say the paracetamol is a generic name of the drug which is prescribed to control fever.

They claim that several multinational and national pharmaceutical companies are manufacturing paracetamol under more than 300 generic names but the local medics largely prescribe Panadol brand.

Though many of the other generic medicines have also disappeared from the market, the acute shortage of Panadol [tablets] for the last five to six months in Lahore and other cities has created a crisis-like situation.

Some medical experts are of the view that the the black market of the drug is the main reason for its artificial shortage.

They allege that some senior officials in the Directorate of Health Services Punjab are also involved in this respect.

An official says the drug has disappeared from the local markets due to two major reasons – the non-availability of the raw material in the international markets and the low price of the medicine as the manufacturers claim that they are unable to afford the expenses due to volatility in the dollar rate.

He says the multinational and national pharmaceutical companies purchase raw material from China and America to manufacture the drug locally.

He says the Chinese companies have stopped the export of raw material to the Asian countries due to the closure of some plants in the wake of the environmental policy.

Consequently, they have restricted export to the Middle East and other countries only, he says, adding that the manufacturers in Pakistan are finding it hard to meet the growing requirement of the medicine.

The low price of the drug is another major reason as the federal cabinet has rejected four times the proposal/summary to increase the prices, the official says.

He said though the manufacturing of the paracetamol drugs has been reduced considerably, it is the responsibility of the government to ensure its uninterrupted supply/provision to patients.

He says the Punjab health officials should abandon the practice of concealing the facts about the shortage of the drug in the market. “The health department should raise the genuine and serious concerns of the patients with the federal government to bring about a permanent solution by ensuring supply of the drug in the market according to its demand.”

Published in Dawn, August 30th, 2022

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