Drug Shortage Poses a Threat to Healthcare System in Pakistan


by Iqra Zafar

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Fear of medicine shortage is posing a threat to the healthcare system in Pakistan. Expecting the shortage of essential and life-saving drugs in the country the Federal Ministry of National Health Services, Regulation, and Coordination (NHS, R&C) has reached out to the Ministry of Finance to resolve the issue of Letters of Credit (LCs) being faced by the pharmaceuticals companies while importing raw material for medicines.

The dollar shortage in Pakistan resulted in the LC issue being faced by the companies while trying to import the raw material for medicine synthesis. As per the claims made by The Pakistan Pharmaceutical Manufacturing Association (PPMA), no bank is opening LCs for raw material import since last month due to the ‘verbal instructions’ given by the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) asking not to open LCs for raw material import in the pharmaceutical sector.

If the problem persists, this will result in severe medicine shortages including life-saving drugs as pharmaceutical companies only have raw materials left for another few months. This shortage will also affect the medical devices import in the months ahead.

According to the Chairman of the Pakistan Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Association (PPMA), North Region, Indian suppliers are no longer providing raw materials to Pakistan claiming the country has defaulted while Chinese suppliers are also asking for advance payments in order to supply raw materials.


Considering the situation, NHS has written a letter to the Ministry of Finance on the recommendation of the Drug Regulatory Authority of Pakistan (DRAP) warning about this serious health crisis and resolving the issue of LCs.

Taking on this, an official of NHS, R&C said, “The NHS has written a letter to the federal finance ministry to look into the complaints of non-opening of LCs by the local banks for the import of Active Pharmaceutical Ingredients (APIs). We have warned of a shortage of medicines in the country in the coming few weeks if the LCs are not opened for the import of medicines’ raw material.

Pakistan’s medicine manufacturing industry is import-based, which means that almost 95 percent of the medicines produced in the country are manufactured with raw materials imported from China, India, and some other countries of the world. If the raw materials or Active Pharmaceutical Ingredients (API) are not imported into Pakistan, medicines’ manufacturing can come to a halt,” the official warned.

Alongside medicines, there will be a serious medical equipment crisis including stents, heart valves, pacemakers, implants, and other surgical equipment if LCs are not opened and it will obstruct the essential life-saving surgeries revealed a health official from Mid City Lahore. Talking on this, the spokesperson of SBP said, “Governor State Bank of Pakistan has issued clear instructions that there is no restriction over the import of petroleum and pharmaceutical products. The same is the situation with medical devices.