ISLAMABAD: The capital administration on Wednesday have started taking action against shortage of life saving drugs, which are reportedly helpful in curing Covid-19, Dawn has learnt.

Deputy Commissioner Islamabad Mohammad Hamza Shafqaat stated that action was taken after receiving complaints about shortage of Dexamethasone tablets, which have reportedly been used to cure critical Covid-19 patients.

“It is a lifesaving drug and available in markets at cheap rates. Since the health ministry, expert doctors and BBC announced that the drug can save a Covid-19 patient’s life, it has disappeared from the market. Over disappearance of the drug, a survey was conducted and a report was also sought from police in this regard,” he stated, adding that teams were constituted to check whether the medicine was being hoarded.

“A criminal case will be registered against those involved in hoarding, profiteering and black marketing of the medicine. Conviction of the crime will lead to three years in prison. There is a complete ban on selling the medicine without doctors’ prescription, to avoid hoarding and online black marketing; renowned pharmacies have been directed to ensure availability of the medicine in the capital,” he added.

A notification issued from Mr Shafqaat’s office stated: “The district administration has taken serious notice of reported shortage of the medicine, Tab Dexamethasone [all strengths] in some pharmacies. In this regard, all the pharmacies shall ensure uninterrupted supply and availability of the medicine at prevalent rates. The medicine shall be sold only to consumers with valid prescription, with the stamp and signature of a registered medical practitioner along with Pakistan Medical and Dental Association [PMDC’s] registration number on it. Moreover, for every sale pharmacies and retailers shall keep a copy of the prescription for the purpose of record and audit by assistant commissioners.”

Sale of the medicine at exorbitant rates, sale in bulk or its artificial shortage by hoarding shall be cognisable under Profiteering and Hoarding Act 1977, Drug Act 1976 and Schedule-11 of the Drug Regulatory Authority of Pakistan (Drap) Act 2012, the notification stated.

All assistant commissioners have been directed to make inspections and conduct audits of pharmacies in their jurisdictions, with further instructions to ensure uninterrupted supply of Dexamethasone and its sale to consumers with valid prescriptions.

Talking to Dawn, officials said that there were some medicines and vitamins, declared effective against the virus because they boost immunity. However, they have also disappeared from markets.

In this regard, DC Shafqaat stated: “We only got complaints about the shortage of Dexamethasone, and action has been taken over it. Normally, Drap takes action over such issues. Shortage of such medicines and vitamins will be considered as a law and order situation.”

Published in Dawn, June 18th, 2020