Pakistan’s counterfeit medicine problem

A complete lack of regulation is allowing this morally reprehensible business to flourish

Within the world of fraudulent businesses, what one fraudulent business comes to mind that is the most morally reprehensible yet commonplace? A business practice that makes a lot of money and does unspeakable damage that can scarcely be made sense of. This categorisation is not limited to one or even just a few businesses, but one business that does fall under this description is that of selling counterfeit drugs. 

Preying on the sick and helpless, making them pay exorbitant amounts of money only to give them fake or subpar medicine, is truly a low one would hope to never witness. Unfortunately, Pakistan is a country where substandard and counterfeit drugs are sold openly and no one is going to lay a finger on a single hair of the mafia behind the buying and selling of these fake drugs.  

According to a survey conducted by Profit, more than 40 percent of medicines sold in Pakistani markets are either counterfeit or substandard. Similarly, 4,000 pharmaceutical companies are registered in the country, while more than 100,000 companies are making and selling drugs without anyone asking. There is not a single government civil or military hospital in the whole country where the ruling classes or government bureaucrats like to get their treatment.

And the problems are not just limited to substandard drugs being sold – even actual drugs can be misused and brought out on the streets. Such as 2012, when the heart medicine ephedrine was misused, and an investigation into whether two drug manufacturing companies in Pakistan turned ephedrine allocations into street drugs garnered international attention. In either kind of case, the issues is that regulation of drugs in Pakistan is abysmal. 

People fall prey to new diseases due to faulty and counterfeit medicines every day. Everybody knows and recognizes the traders involved in counterfeit medicines in the markets here, but people turn to the same medical stores for medicines. But the real question is, who allows this and how does it go unattended for so long?

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Shahab Omer
The writer is a member of the staff and can be reached on [email protected]

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