Several essential medicines vanish from Pakistani markets

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Islamabad, July 21:An alarming situation has arisen as markets in Pakistan are short on several essential medicines, including suicide prevention drugs, due to a hike in their production costs – creating fear of an increased suicide rate in the country, local media reported.

"None of the brands selling lithium carbonate are available in the market for the last couple of months," a renowned psychiatrist and former president of the Pakistan Psychiatric Society (PPS) said while referring to the formulation known as the most effective medicine for the treatment of several psychiatric illnesses, including bipolar disorder.

Similarly, some other essential medicines, including methylphenidate for the treatment of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in children and clonazepam drops and tablets for epilepsy in children and adults, are also not available in the market, physicians and pharmacists said.

Several other psychiatrists at the Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences (PIMS), Shifa International Hospital Islamabad and Mayo Hospital Lahore as well as psychiatrists in Peshawar also confirmed that relatives of patients diagnosed with bipolar disorder were moving from pillar to post for lithium carbonate, but none of its brands were available in the market, The News reported.

"There are some alternatives to this medicine but they are not effective as lithium carbonate," said Iqbal Afridi, adding that pharmaceutical companies and the Drug Regulatory Authority of Pakistan (DRAP) were requested to ensure the availability of this drug as hundreds of patients are suffering due to shortage of this important medicine.

Qazi Mansoor Dilawar, the chairperson of the Pakistan Pharmaceutical Manufacturers' Association (PPMA), conceded that several medicines were not available in the local market, as their cost of production had increased to the extent where it was not viable for manufacturers to produce the drugs and sell them at a price below the cost of production.

"(The) rupee's devaluation is the biggest factor behind increasing cost of production of many essential medicines. (The) cost of raw material is increasing while utilities, transportation and other costs have made it impossible for pharmaceutical companies to manufacture many essential medicines," Qazi Mansoor Dilawar said, The News reported.


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