Double-edged sword: Prices of medicines, equipment to cure dengue soar amid outbreak

Locals say private laboratories charging thrice the amount set by the district govt for tests.

Fazal Khaliq September 12, 2013
The NS1 kits, which are used for diagnosis of dengue, are being sold like hot cakes. PHOTO: FILE

MINGORA: In addition to the debilitating dengue fever which according to unconfirmed reports claimed another life in Mingora on Thursday, a sharp increase in medicines and equipment used to treat and diagnose the disease is worrying those caring for their ailing loved ones.

Mohammad Hussain, a resident of Tahirabad Banr, is said to have died of dengue on Thursday, bringing the unofficial death toll to 16. The government, however, places the number nearer to 10.

Drugstores across the valley are not helping matters. An independent survey indicates chemists in Mingora are selling a strip of Panadol tablets, which usually costs Rs10, for Rs20. A glucose drip, which is available in the market for Rs120, is being sold for Rs180-200. Similarly, the price of syringes has also increased from Rs2 to Rs4, while the NS1 kit is being sold for Rs420-450. Even prices of anti-mosquito coils have increased in wake of the outbreak.

“The rate for the dengue test has been fixed at Rs350 by the district government, but private laboratories are charging Rs650-1,200. They charge Rs1,200 from patients who want their test results urgently,” said Mohammad Ifran, who owns a medical store himself, but is presently busy taking care of his ailing son.

“The drugstore owner near the hospital charged me double for a drip when I went to make the purchase for my son.”

The NS1 kits, which are used for diagnosis of dengue, are being sold like hot cakes. “We have never ordered NS1 kits because the dengue fever was unknown here. This time we sold more than 3,000 kits when the epidemic broke out in Swat,” a wholesale laboratory equipment dealer said. Not wanting to reveal his name, he admitted the prices of the kits had suddenly gone up.

According to Dr Wisal Ahmed, a spokesman at Saidu Sharif Teaching Hospital (STH), the total number of patients admitted to STH has risen to 1,902. “Presently, 262 dengue patients, including 12 children, are hospitalised. Around 75 patients were discharged recently, bringing the total amount of those discharged after recovery to 1,450.”

According to the District Health Office, dengue fever has been confirmed in 3,005 patients in Swat district, while unofficial figures claim the number to be as high as 4,700.

Published in The Express Tribune, September 13th, 2013.


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