Shortage of life-saving drugs amid weak rupee, controversial pricing policy


KARACHI: The pricing policy of the Drug Regularity Authority of Pakistan (DRAP) and the depreciating rupee have caused an extreme shortage of most imported and critical medicines in Pakistan.

“Due to the extreme depreciation of Pakistani currency against the dollar and controversial drug pricing policy of Drug Regularity Authority of Pakistan (DRAP), their prices have risen manifold and it has become economically unviable for importers to bring them on the existing prices given by the DRAP,” Abdul Mannan, a pharmacist and importer of biological products.

Both public and private healthcare facilities are facing a shortage of imported vaccines, cancer therapies, fertility drugs and anaesthesia gasses after vendors stopped their supplies due to dollar-rupee disparity, medicines suppliers and officials said.

At the moment, the most important drug which is not being supplied to health facilities is Heparin, which is a blood-thinning agent used after some cardiovascular procedures. Similarly, some important anaesthetic gasses like isoflurane, sevoflurane as well as monoclonal antibodies for the treatment of different types of cancers as well as fertility products like human chronic gonadotropin (HCG) and human menopausal gonadotropin (HMG) are also not being provided to health facilities due to dollar-rupee disparity and pricing policy of the DRAP, they added.

Although most of the oral medicines including syrups, tablets and injections are produced locally, Pakistan imports most of the biological products including all vaccines, anti-cancer medicines and therapies, hormones, fertility medicines as well as other products from India, China, Russia, European countries as well as the United States and Turkey.

Urging the government to immediately review the Drug Pricing Policy 2018 of DRAP, which allows an increase in the prices under the hardship category, Mannan maintained that DRAP allowed the import of medicines when the dollar was available at Rs190 but now it had gone upto to Rs285 while in the local market, the dollar is being traded at Rs300.