LAHORE: Various essential and life-saving drugs, manufactured by multinational and local pharmaceutical companies, have disappeared from the market, endangering the health and even the lives of patients, News Bowl has learned.
Ordinary citizens are the ultimate victims as the majority of unavailable drugs have virtually no substitutes.
If any substitute for a drug is available, it is not prescribed because doctors have little or even no confidence in its effectiveness. Experienced doctors, manufacturers, wholesalers, retailers and government officials have given various reasons for the unavailability of essential drugs.
Essential drugs including Ventolin 2mg/4mg tablets, Ventolin injection, Xanax 0.5/0.25/1mg tab, Ativan 1/2mg tab, Betnesol tab, Clenil Compositum, ViDaylin syrup, Epuram syrup, Epuram tab, Silliver tab, Fortum 250/500mg injection, Cloberite Cream, Cloberite Oil, Gaviscon Syrup, Panadol Tab, Calpol Tab, Klaricid Drops, Klaricid Syrup, Primolut N, Febrol Tab/Syrup, L Coldrex tab, Actifed P, Glucobay tab and various others disappeared from drugstore shelves.
These essential drugs are not available in the drug market in Lohari and in medical stores, including the outlets of all major pharmacy chains.
The unavailability of effective and cheap Ventolin tablets and injections and Clenil Compositum has made the lives of poor Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) patients miserable in the highly polluted atmosphere of big cities like Lahore.
The lives of heart patients are at high risk because an important drug Inderal 40mg which is effective in controlling high blood pressure and irregular heartbeat is not available in the market.
Reportedly Xanax 0.5/0.25/1mg tab and Ativan 1/2mg tab are effective in treating anxiety/panic disorder, Betnesol tab to control swelling, itching and redness, ViDaylin syrup to check for fluoride deficiency in children, Epuram syrup, Epuram tab and Tab Silliver for liver disease.
Fortum 250/500mg is effective for a wide range of bacterial infections, Cloberite cream and Cloberite oil for inflammation control, Gaviscon syrup for heartburn and indigestion, Klaricid drops, Klaricid for lower respiratory tract infections like acute and chronic bronchitis and pneumonia, Primolut N for premenstrual syndrome, Febrol tablet/syrup for mild to moderate pain (headache, menstruation, toothache, back pain, osteoarthritis or cold/flu) and to reduce fever.
In addition to this, Coldrex tab for relief of sinus pain and nasal congestion, Actifed P for relief of colds, flu, allergies or other respiratory illnesses, Glucobay tab for type 2 diabetes and Panadol tab and Calpol tab to reduce fever.
A chief medical officer said News Bowl shortages of these life-saving and essential medicines were common as there was no proper mechanism to protect the interests of patients.
He also said there was no substitute for “orphan” drugs. Referring to the reasons for the unavailability of important drugs, he added that the companies pay no attention to meeting patients’ demands as the prices of these drugs are low and there is little profit margin. The prices of these drugs have not been revised for many years, he explained.
Profits rather than people?
Professor Javed Akram, Vice Chancellor (VC) of the University of Health Sciences (UHS) said: “Multinational companies supply fewer drugs because there is little or even no profit margin. They prefer to manufacture and sell other drugs for profit to earn more money. Local companies also show the least interest in manufacturing these drugs for the same reason.
Referring to the shortage of different brands of paracetamol, he added that the latest price review by the Drugs Regulatory Authority of Pakistan (DRAP) would help normalize the situation.
“Companies are not just there to serve. You have to give them a realistic profit margin,” he said, adding that the drop in price was the cause of the shortage of a medicine in 99% of cases.
There are other issues like supplying raw materials and registering drugs, the UHS VC explained. “But these only contribute 1pc to the shortage of a drug. The government needs to revise the prices of all orphan drugs to ensure their availability in the market.
The government should revise the prices of essential drugs after due consultation with stakeholders, he suggested.
A rapid review of the prices of essential drugs is needed to stop further additions to the orphan drug list, said Amjad Ali Jawa, managing director of Wilshire Laboratories, a leading pharmaceutical company with a reasonable local market share, in more than export medicine to more than 20 countries. in Asia and Africa.
“The government usually forces companies to manufacture orphan drugs in the required quantity. Even the manufacturing and supply in the required quantity could not control the shortage of these drugs in the market.
He also said lower prices encourage hoarding and selling these drugs at higher rates at retail outlets. As such, he added, the only way to overcome the shortage of these drugs was to give a realistic profit margin to the entire supply chain, from manufacturers to retailers.