LAHORE: There has been a shortage of essential medicines and drugs in medical shops across Lahore for the last two weeks to six months.

These medicines are used to cure thyroid disorders, heart diseases, flu and cold, allergies, indigestion, malaria, asthma and blood pressure.

The medicines in short supply include Angised, Nicoril 20mg, Thyroxin, Nilstat drops, Arinac Forte, Mucane syrup, Cremafin syrup, Migiril, Tandigl, Qalsan-D, C-Cone, CaC1000, Calcitampam–T, Chewcall, Revitale Multi, Oculuvit extra, Actifid-P tablets and syrup, Ativan, AZM tablets, Nivaquine-T, Ternaline 2mg Cream, Primolet-N, Dermazin Cream and Tronolen Cream.

A number of owners of drug stores near the Mayo, Sir Ganga Ram and Jinnah hospitals told this correspondent that the medicine supply has either been irregular or short.

Drug sellers blame companies for creating an artificial shortage

They said many of these medicines were manufactured by multinational companies which create an artificial shortage whenever they wish to increase prices.

“Sometimes distributors create an artificial shortage and blackmail drug stores to purchase their other products in large quantities otherwise the drug in demand will not be supplied,” said the manager of a medical store chain outlet near the Mayo Hospital.

An owner of a medical store nearby said the sales representatives of pharmaceutical companies maintain that it was neither mandatory nor possible for them to ensure availability of all medicines at all pharmacies round the year in the city.

Anwaar, a salesman at a store near the Sir Ganga Ram Hospital, blamed the media for triggering the shortage. “The media create hype and panic buying begins,” he said while admitting that pharmaceuticals have reduced the supply of medicines used to treat allergies since the advent of smog in the city.

Ramzan, a druggist near the Jinnah Hospital, said the medicines which remain in short supply every now and then were comparatively cheaper but effective. “That is why these medicines always remain in great demand.”

Senior pharmacist and drug law expert Dr Noor Muhammad Mahar said under the Drugs Act 1976 (Licencing, Registration and Advertising), the drug manufacturers were bound to maintain adequate stock of every registered medicine and to ensure its uninterrupted supply.

Regarding the shortage of medicines, he said since long it has been a tactic of the pharmaceutical companies to put pressure on the Drug Regulatory Authority of Pakistan (DRAP) to permit hike in the prices.

“A meeting of the DRAP drug pricing committee is scheduled for Nov 19. The role of DRAP is also questionable in this regard. Under the Drugs Act 1976 Clause 8 of Section 7, DRAP had to register medicines under generic and not by brand names. This also facilitates certain pharmaceutical companies in creating artificial shortage and increasing the prices. Just two examples, the tablet containing salt Glyceryl Trinitrate, manufactured by a multinational for heart patients, is in short supply but available under other brand name in the market. Similarly, at least 40 companies manufacture medicines to overcome calcium deficiency but only one brand is in short supply,” said Dr Mahar.

Published in Dawn, November 13th, 2017

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