Home/ News / World/  Pakistan economic crisis: Now country's healthcare system gets hit, medicines supply deteriorate

Amid Pakistan's external debt servicing obligation for the ongoing fiscal year 2022-23 rovers over $23 billion, of which $6 billion has been repaid and $4 billion rolled over, reports are arriving that country's healthcare system has been badly hit and its struggling for essential medicines.

Citing the lack of forex reserves, Pakistan's capacity to import the required medicines or the Active Pharmaceutical Ingredients (API) used in domestic production has deteriorated.

As patients are suffering in hospitals, the local pharmaceutical manufacturers have been forced to slash their production. Adding on doctors are forced to not perform surgeries due to the shortage of drugs and medical equipment.

According to local media reports, even the operation theatres are left with less than the two-week stock of anaesthetics, for surgeries including like heart, cancer and kidney.

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If the current situation persists, high chances of job losses in Pakistan's hospitals are expected, which may further deteriorate the existing one.

As per details, Pakistan medicine manufacturing is highly import-dependent with almost 95 per cent of the drugs requiring raw materials from other nations, both including India and China.

Due to the shortage of dollars in the banking system, most of the drug manufacturers are unable to get the imported materials held up at the Karachi port.

Meanwhile, drug manufacturing industry claim the cost of making drugs is constantly increasing, citing rise in fuel costs, transportation charges and the sharp devaluation of the Pakistani rupee.

To get a hint of solution, the Pakistan Medical Association (PMA) called for the intervention of the government from turning into a disaster. However, the authorities rather than taking immediate steps are still trying to assess the quantum of the shortage.

The drug retailers Drug retailers in Pakistan's Punjab, meanwhile, have said that government survey teams carried out field visits to determine the shortage of crucial medicines. The retailers revealed that the shortage of some common but important drugs is impacting the majority of the customers. These medicines include Panadol, Insulin, Brufen, Disprin, Calpol, Tegral, Nimesulide, Hepamerz, Buscopan and Rivotril, etc.

Some 20-25 per cent of pharmaceutical production stands sluggish at present, The Express Tribune reported in January quoted Pakistan Pharmaceutical Manufacturers' Association (PPMA) Central Chairman Syed Farooq Bukhari as saying. He further said, "The worst medicine crisis would erupt in the country if current policies (ban on imports) remain in place for the next four to five-week."

Earlier on 24 February, the debt-laden Pakistan's Finance Minister Ishaq Dar announced that State Bank of Pakistan received funds worth $700 million from China Development Bank.

As of 17 February, country's foreign exchange reserves stand at $3.25 billion. But, the the delay in the revival of the $6.5 billion International Monetary Fund (IMF) programme has made it difficult for the government to achieve this goal, a Geo News report cites.

According to The News, Pakistan is aiming to refinance Chinese loans up to $2 billion by the end of February or the first week of March 2023.

Earlier this month, the Pakistan government and the IMF staff concluded the ninth review of the $6.5 billion bailout package without a staff-level agreement. The Pakistani government had hoped that they would be able to convince the IMF about implementing the conditions in a gradual manner. However, Islamabad's hopes were dashed during the IMF mission's 10-day visit to Pakistan.

With agency inputs.

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Updated: 26 Feb 2023, 10:47 PM IST
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