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Many, if not all, of the businesses in the world, are facing the catastrophic impacts of Covid-19. The world was not at all prepared for the casualties of the coronavirus. Sales have dropped drastically, jobs have been lost, working hours have reduced and what not. Consumer demand has reduced. Major companies are now in a constant state of confusion as to how they should cope up with such an unprecedented crisis. The pharmaceutical industry, too, is suffering.

One of the most important issues being faced by the pharma companies is the severe lack of raw material for medicines. This is because Pakistan is immensely dependent on import from China. In fact, almost 80% of API (Active Pharmaceutical Ingredient) is being imported from China (Wuhan). Now, as the Covid-19 struck first at Wuhan, it was unable to manufacture and supply these raw materials to Pakistan. 

Due to the inadequate supply of raw materials, the production of medicine in Pakistan was also severely reduced. A few small companies in the country were even forced to shut down production. However, this is not the concern of large-scale manufacturers.

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Pakistan faces a shortage of drugs.

Other issues include lack of transport facility, delay in supply of medicine, and a lack of manpower. Due to the lockdown, major transport services were not in function. This resulted in an unnecessary delay in the supply of raw material and distribution of medicines. In addition to this, due to the rapid spread of the deadly virus, many workers are forced to quarantine themselves in their homes, or worse, in hospitals which resulted in a shortage of workers.

Many workers had to be sent on 14-20 day leaves, depending upon the condition of their health. This caused new part-time workers to be hired, straining the already struggling industry. Moreover, many employees stopped coming to work simply because of their fear of the virus and spreading it to their family and friends.

Furthermore, like many papers, glass and plastic manufacturing factories are shut down, the pharmaceutical industry is also facing an undersupply of bottles, card boxes, syringes and other material used for the packaging of medicines.

As a result, many common and essential medicines were not able to reach patients, threatening their lives in the process.

To cover up the loss and shortage of drugs and to get back on track, the cabinet approved DRAP (Drug Regulatory Authority of Pakistan) to increase the prices of many life-saving, essential medicines. After this, the situation swirled more out of hand. The life-saving Actemra injection’s price now stands around Rupees 1 million. 

Actemra price rises to Rs 1 million.

Unfortunately, this isn’t the only case as the price of the antibiotic Doxycycline increased from Rs 233 to Rs 400. Similarly, the old price of the Neurobion tablet, which prevents or treats vitamin B deficiencies, was Rs 535 and has now increased to Rs 977. The price of the Adrenaline injection has been raised from Rs 217 to Rs 517. Whereas, the price of one packet of Chloroquine tablets, used to prevent or treat malaria, stands at Rs 3000.

“The decision to allow necessary increases in the prices of such drugs will enable viable manufacture and ready availability of these essential medications to the public,” said the Federal Ministry of Health, “instead of forcing people to purchase medicines of dubious quality at exorbitant black-market prices.” 

This, however, is not the only cause of worry and chaos. The prices of basic self-protection gears, including but not limited to masks, sanitisers and protection gloves have sky-rocketed. Making it almost impossible for the poor sector of our country to afford them, thus, causing a surge in the positivity rate of the virus. 

Protective gears’ prices skyrocket.

Due to the lack of raw ingredients, transport facilities, packaging material and manpower, the pharmaceutical industry has suffered quite a loss. This resulted in the sky-rocketing prices of drugs which erupted panic and chaos between the masses. Many people are now going without their essential medicines just because they can not afford them. An adequate system needs to be established for the timely management of the industry to save it and the population from further loss in this pandemic.

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