Millions of people trapped in flooded areas of the country face an onslaught of multiple diseases but are forced to fight them without the drug of choice, acetaminophen.
This was announced on Thursday during a session of the Standing Committee on Health at the National Assembly.
The committee dealt with the health of flood victims on Thursday. The federal health minister said they were facing shortages of essential medicines in the flood-hit areas, particularly acetaminophen, which is already facing a nationwide shortage.
He added that international donors have also been asked to provide supplies of paracetamol due to a domestic shortage.
The committee was told the shortage came at a time when people in flood-hit areas are facing an onslaught of diseases like dengue and malaria.
This information led to a heated debate at the committee meeting.
Committee member Dr. Shazia Sobia said that some people use scarcity and flooding as an excuse to raise prices for basic necessities because of personal interests.
“Dengue is spreading rapidly in flood areas and there is an artificial shortage of medicines,” she said, adding that greed is making essential medicines too expensive for people.
Another committee member, Zahra Wadood Fatemi, made an unusual request during the committee meeting.
“Is there anyone who can get the pills,” she asked, adding, “I also have three patients at home.”
Another member said that by the time international donors provide the pills, it will be too late.
The committee was told that pharmaceutical companies that make the tablets have requested a price increase for paracetamol. However, the application was not approved by the Federal Cabinet.
The chief executive officer of the Drug Regulatory Authority of Pakistan (DRAP) informed the committee that punitive measures had been taken against those affected.
The special secretary of the Ministry of Health told the committee that they are closely monitoring the supply of medicines in the market, especially in the flood-affected areas.
He added that the government has already received copious amounts of paracetamol as part of aid shipments from foreign governments.
Later, the committee asked DRAP to give a detailed briefing on the drug shortages at the next meeting.
The committee also expressed anger at the continued absence of the federal health minister and secretary from the committee’s meetings.