Maybe the crises Pakistan is engulfed in are responsible for the cabinet being unable to approve the prices of some 300 essential drugs. However, it should not be used as an excuse to abdicate responsibility. The fact that the issue of fixing new prices of these medicines is pending since February 2019 is hard to reconcile with the incumbent government’s commitment to public health. As a result of this delay, patients with serious ailments are likely to pay the price. At times, this can also mean unnecessary deaths. The delay by the cabinet in fixing the prices, after approval has already been given the Drugs Regulatory Authority of Pakistan (DRAP), has resulted in the shortage of life-saving drugs in the market. This time, DRAP cannot be held responsible for the lack of medicines in the market.

It is true that the federal government has plenty on its plate right now. The pandemic has thrown up so many problems that require attention. While it has done much on the COVID-19 front, the government is yet to respond to the persistent and acute shortage of medicines. One wonders why the government does not devise a strategy that can maintain a steady supply of drugs in the market. After all, one promise that connects a person to the state is the latter’s pledge to protect the life of the former. If the state cannot fulfil its most fundamental promise to its citizens, then the social contract between the two lies in tatters.

In this whole scenario, where different stakeholders are lamenting the case of shortage, the voice of the main stakeholder, i.e., the patient is completely neglected. Patients have nowhere to go to seek redressal. The government must call cabinet meetings for determining the prices of these essential medicines. However, it must also negotiate with manufacturers so that important drugs are available in the market at affordable rates.