Fact-check: Is there a shortage of Panadol in Pakistan?

Pharmacies across Pakistan are indeed reporting supply constraints since early this year

Since January, multiple social media posts have sounded an alarm over the shortage of the medicine, Panadol Plain, in markets across Pakistan, which could put patients at risk.

The claim is true.

Claim

A tweet posted on September 11 stated that the shortage of Panadol tablets persisted. “Counterfeit products are spreading,” the Twitter users wrote, “Genuine product is selling in black at 2-3 times the MRP.”

Another Twitter account alleged that even while dengue is an epidemic in Peshawar, “Panadol was short in the market”.

However, Ahmed Hussain Shah, the senior private secretary to the federal minister for health, denied news of the shortage.

“Supply is reaching, we have people posted in [pharmacies] factories to ensure supply to the [markets],” Shah told Geo Fact Check, “The usage has increased slightly due to floods, and malaria, but there is no shortage as such.”

Fact

Pharmacies across Pakistan are indeed reporting supply constraints since early this year.

The drug is used to treat fever and is essential for patients infected with deadly illnesses such as the coronavirus and dengue fever.

Geo Fact Check reached out to several pharmacies in Lahore, Karachi and Peshawar, who confirmed that there has been a supply disruption of the drug since before the floods struck in mid-June.

Fazal Din’s Pharma Plus, Chughtai, Clinix and Servaid Pharmacy in Lahore told Geo Fact Check that the Panadol tablets were indeed unavailable.

An employee at a well-known medical store in Peshawar said, on the condition of anonymity, that he is only able to get one or two boxes of the medicine per week. “There was a shortage of Panadol during the coronavirus but this is worse than that,” he added.

Geo Fact Check also reached out to pharmacies in Karachi, namely the Agha Khan Laboratory, a pharmacy in Malir Cantonment and Kausar Medicos. They also confirmed the short supply and added that due to it they only sell one strip per buyer of the tablets.

Hamid Raza from Neutro Pharma also agreed that the shortage has been there for five to six months.

Why is there a shortage?

GSK Consumer Healthcare, manufacturers of Panadol in Pakistan, admit that production has been affected due to a deadlock between the government and the pharmaceutical company over the price of the medicine.

In a written response to Geo Fact Check, the company said that while they continue to supply Panadol in the country “due to the price increase in raw material, the situation has become unviable. Our Panadol business in Pakistan is loss-making and unsustainable without an approved price increase by the federal government.”

Muhammad Rasheed, the deputy director at the state-run Drug Regulatory Authority of Pakistan, told Geo Fact Check that the government’s approved price of 200 tablets of Panadol is Rs374.

However, GSK states that the uptick in the dollar rate and the closure of one of the major Paracetamol manufacturing plants in China has complicated their situation.

“We haven’t changed the price of Panadol amid the shortage as it is subject to approval from DRAP and the cabinet,” the GSK told Geo Fact Check, “However, we are requesting the government to introduce a rational pricing policy.”


With additional reporting by M. Waqar Bhatti.

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