The current drug shortage in the market is another story of government failure. The unavailability of some 60 essential medicines from the market is a tale of government’s negligence towards the patients and lethargy. The shortage is explained by failure to adjust the prices and the government’s inability to separate people’s health from politics as it has banned imports from India.

Furthermore, red-tapism ­­– delays in releasing quotas of some of the controlled substances that the drug manufacturers need to prepare certain medicines – also plays a constant role in the perpetuation of drugs shortage in the market. The abrupt policies of the state, especially the unexplained and illogical restrictions, have further aggravated the crisis. What is the Drug Regulatory Authority of Pakistan (Drap) doing to solve the crisis? The shortage of medicines from the market and people facing problems in purchasing them show that the Drap is failing in its most primary task, i.e., ensuring essential drugs in the market.

By the way, this is not the first time that markets are short of essential medicines. Unfortunate to note that in the midst of all this, no one from the government is seen nowhere. The federal government is yet to respond to the persistent acute shortage of medicines — some of which are life-saving. And this makes one wonder why does the government 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 latter. If the state cannot fulfil its most fundamental promise to its citizens, then the social contract between the two lies in tatters.

The present situation is not only unfortunate but also alarming. In this whole scenario, where different stakeholders are explaining the case of shortage, the voice of the main stakeholder– the patient – is completely neglected. Patients have nowhere to look up to as they are crushed under the burden of unavailability of medicines and unaffordable rates.

Nevertheless, the present crisis requires the government to intervene in the market for the sake of ordinary patients. And the first thing that the government must do is to provide subsidy to companies that manufacture essential drugs. Subsidising the manufacturers will help in making such drugs available in the market. The fact that some most important medicines are short in the market shows that the concerned authority is not performing its job properly. This necessitates the government to take prompt action so that the frequent shortages of medicines can be avoided.