Curious case of expired medicines

From time to time, scams surface in the healthcare sector

Editorial July 17, 2019

The fact that those who can afford medical treatment abroad avoid being treated in the home country tells a lot about the poor state of affairs in Pakistan’s health sector. This sorry state of affairs can be attributed to avarice, corruption, inefficiency, incompetence, mismanagement and complacency. These are different manifestations of corruption, which has taken roots in every walk of life in the country.

From time to time, scams surface in the healthcare sector. Recently expensive Hepatitis C medicines meant for 1,800 patients suffering from co-infection — HIV/AIDS and Hepatitis C — allegedly expired at the government’s Medical Stores Depot in Lahore. The medicines reportedly expired due to negligence by the relevant authorities. The status of the same medicines meant for 3,200 patients supplied to treatment centres in the province during the past two years is also not known. The medicines were bought by a healthcare department under the Punjab AIDS Control Programme (PACP) in April 2017 for 5,000 patients at a cost of Rs126 million. The medicines reportedly expired in April this year, but the head of the PACP allegedly concealed the fact from higher authorities. When experts carried out an inspection of an MSD warehouse, the scam was detected. They have recommended that serious notice be taken of this act of negligence as it involved a heavy loss to the exchequer.

In 2012, around 2,000 heart patients died at Punjab Institute of Cardiology in Lahore after they were inserted substandard stents. Not much is known about the outcomes of inquiries.

The government of Imran Khan has launched a health insurance scheme for low-income groups. But those who are to be covered under the scheme are nearly ignorant about how the plan would work.

Published in The Express Tribune, July 17th, 2019.

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