The Sindh Health Department on Thursday raided a warehouse in Karachi’s Hawkesbay area and confiscated 48 million “hoarded” Panadol tablets, according to officials.
Provincial Drug Inspector Dilawar Ali Jiskani told Dawn.com that the warehouse was owned by GlaxoSmithKline Consumer Healthcare Ltd.
“The seized medicines were being hoarded to sell them at expensive rates in the market,” he alleged, adding that the price of the tablets was estimated to be Rs250 million.
Jiskani added that the police have initiated a probe into the incident.
The development was also confirmed by Karachi Administrator Murtaza Wahab who, in a tweet, said that Panadol tablets were being hoarded at a time when the medicine was important for treating patients.
“Good assertiveness shown by the administration. Legal action is being further taken,” he tweeted.
Panadol tablet is manufactured by GlaxoSmithKline and is the brand name of the Paracetamol drug. It’s an antipyretic drug that’s frequently used for fever and pain. Demand for the tablet has been high, particularly in the wake of the flooding and rising cases of dengue fever.
However, in a statement later in the day, GlaxoSmithKline confirmed that a raid was conducted at one of its warehouses but refuted claims of hoarding Panadol tablets.
“We firmly reject the claims related to hoarding Panadol intentionally to create shortage,” it said, clarifying that the stocks at the warehouse were intended to be released and distributed in the country in the “normal course of business”.
The statement said that the company was led with the purpose of delivering everyday health to humanity. “This has been shown through our commitment to the people of Pakistan throughout challenging times.”
“We continue to supply Panadol products in the country and have adjusted our production capacity to ensure some product availability, despite market obstacles,” it added.
In a press conference earlier this week, Federal Minister for National Health Services (NHS) Abdul Qadir Patel accused pharmaceutical companies of creating an artificial shortage of medicines, especially Paracetamol, and warned them none of their “blackmail” tactics would work on him.
“I would suggest the media should criticise the pharmaceutical companies rather than the government as companies have created an artificial shortage. Similarly, some politicians have been doing marketing of a pharmaceutical company and its brand rather than focusing on the issue of flood victims,” he said.
On the other hand, the Pakistan Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Association (PPMA) has said that the drug shortage had been caused by an exorbitant increase in production costs.