ISLAMABAD: The federal government has decided to provide a subsidy to the manufacturers of paracetamol drug as the demand for the painkiller witnessed a significant spike amid floods in the country, resulting in the outbreak of waterborne diseases, particularly dengue and diarrhoea, in flood-hit regions.

Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif shared this development during a Zoom meeting of the authorities concerned to review the pace of various flood relief and rehabilitation activities. The premier told the meeting about the government’s decision to provide subsidies to the manufacturers of paracetamol so that they could become available at affordable prices.

Pakistan is facing a shortage of the over-the-counter medicine amid a tiff between the government and the pharma industry over the pricing mechanism. Last month, the government rejected a summary seeking an increase in the drug’s price.

Subsequently, a decline in the production of these painkillers was observed. The health minister went on to accuse the pharmaceutical companies of creating an artificial shortage of medicines, especially paracetamol, and warned them none of their “blackmail” tactics would work on him.

Shehbaz thanks Biden, MBS, Angelina for coming to aid of calamity-struck Pakistan

However, in another meeting between the health minister and the stakeholders, the industry players agreed to resume partial production of paracetamol earlier this month.

Zoom meeting

According to Prime Minister Office, the premier reviewed the distribution of food items, tents and medicines in the affected areas. He ordered the authorities concerned to make use of all available resources to distribute essential food items, especially baby food, on an emergency basis.

The prime minister also took stock of the restoration of roads, rails, bridges, and other infrastructure damaged in the devastating floods, and ordered the relevant federal and provincial departments to accelerate their efforts to make them operational as early as possible.

Prime Minister Sharif is in New York to attend the High-Level General Debate of the 77th Session of the UN General Assembly (UNGA), scheduled from Sept 20 to 26.

PM grateful for aid

Separately, PM Sharif also expressed his gratitude to US President Joe Biden, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, and Hollywood actor Angelina Jolie who visited Pakistan to meet the flood survivors earlier this week.

“Thank you President Joe Biden for highlighting the plight of flood victims in Pakistan and urging the world for an immediate response, as my country is facing the ravages of unprecedented floods. The calls of stranded women and children for help need to be heeded to,” the PM said in a tweet.

In a separate tweet, the premier added, “Pakistan thanks Angelina Jolie, a special UN envoy, and other unsung heroes for becoming the voice of millions of people whose lives and livelihoods have been destroyed by raging floodwaters. We will forever remember their empathy and compassion for suffering humanity.”

Phone call with MBS

Later, PM Sharif congratulated Mohammed bin Salman on the 92nd National Day of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia on a telephone call.

He thanked the Saudi royals for the on-ground flood relief assistance provided by King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Centre, setting up an air bridge for delivering relief goods and launching the “Sahem” portal in the kingdom for receiving donations from the general public for the Pakistani flood victims.

The prince conveyed condolences on the loss of precious lives and livelihoods of the people caused by torrential monsoon rains. He assured continued support from Saudi Arabia for the flood-affected people of Pakistan.

Published in Dawn, September 23rd, 2022

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