“Pakistan in violation of the WHO Guidelines “
Over the last few decades, our country has repeatedly failed in providing basic health care to its people. Despite massive influx of funds through foreign private funding over the years, massive indulgence in fraud and corruption.
OTC drugs available illegally, fake-doctor prescriptions, rampant human organ smuggling, dangerous hygiene conditions in hospitals, lack of clean water in OPD units, inexperienced nurses, no health insurance to citizens and bad governance within the Ministry of Health are some of the shortlisted causes that remain. Recently a new trend has started surfacing where online drugs are available through the internet offering quick saving deals and free delivery with absolutely no checks by the government on thousand of internet sites, reaching millions every day.
As per the WHO, over 95% of pharmacies on the internet are illegal, selling fake medicines to illiterate compute savvy people obsessed with internet buying. MOH in Pakistan is redundant as in so many years, not a single health warning has been issued on this by the provincial or even the federal government. We are playing with the lives of people every day and we pride ourselves in being called an Islamic country, where everything is illegally sold in the name of Islam.
Our newspapers and TV channels are busy giving press coverage to hard liner criminal masterminds, corrupt politicians and mediocre experts as public remains disillusioned.
Personally, the entire country is in violation. Recently I was shocked to see a newsflash on one of the channels announced that one of the major hospitals in Karachi had to postpone over 100 emergency surgeries due to no water available in the hospital. Did anyone do a program on that ? No clarification statement has been issued by the health authorities so far. Pakistan has already failed miserably on the MDG s on health care and is rated one of the worst countries on health legislation.
On policy and licensing, we cannot even point out who exactly in the government is responsible for such negligence and extreme failure. Majority of online companies in our country are not registered as drugs and food supplements are sold fake. From hypertension to obesity, diabetes to myocardial infarction, even vitamins and enery boosting medicines are fake. Counterfeit products come in different shapes and forms.
They are sold deliberately and fraudulently and are mislabeled with respect to identity and source, applying to both branded and generic products. Also, these drugs contain inactive or insufficient ingredients and have fake packaging.
Other serious issues include substandard herbal medicines, re-labeled drugs with intentions for misuse, animal drugs not approved for human consumption, unapproved infant drugs for child consumption and expired products that have been withdrawn from the market -giving rise to another dangerous channel for black marketing in the country.
People in general fail to understand that the most common “candidates for counterfeiting “ are the well known, easily manufactured, fast-moving brands that pose the major risk of infection, disease and death. How many drug manufacturing laboratories have been inspected by the Ministry?
How can our policy makers run a comprehensive checks on illegal drug sales through clinics, pharmacies or even hospitals?
First of all, the public needs to know the registered number of units in each city, area, block, community. Globally, WHOs vigilance and safety department undertook a massive hunt identifying drug cartels and fake drug smugglers, capturing over 57000 illicit pharmacies, seizure of over 1000 tons and over 50 million units of illegal drugs channeled through Europe through Asia Middle East.
Interpol reports also indicate that there is a constant risk within South Asia as countries like Pakistan and others are marked as high-risk , due to poor governance, rising populations, illegal economy, and extremely weak laws and regulations. With an extremely high mortality rate in Pakistan , the need for vigilance and cross border checks must be enforced in a country where transit smuggling and black marketing is rampant and unchecked for decades.
We have one of the highest mother and child death rates than most underdeveloped countries. Our hospitals record keeping is one of the most pathetic in the world and our medical students, compounders, clerks and nurses pose as certified medical experts with fake degrees issued and available easily from the internet. This culture is not only in violation of WHO regulations worldwide, it is also an extreme violation of human rights in the country where this corrupt government takes direct and indirect taxes from the poor community and in return deliver them with no safety of life and no health care.
Private hospitals cater to select clients who have money to pay for treatments that costs and arm and a leg while government hospitals do not differentiate between animals and human beings when it comes to health care. Patients are treated with no respect and little dignity. Empathy is nowhere to be found. We have no insurance and have to rely solely on hospitals and health care of abnormally dismal levels- extremely substandard and in complete violation of acceptable human care. Question remains – How can we test these institutes for legitimacy & legality. Only our governments can. If they choose to look beyond filing their own pockets with loads of illegally earned currency while they beg to donor agencies for more funds, in the name of this forgotten and lost public of Pakistan.
Let us take an example of the average educated family in Pakistan. We are on average four to five people per house or apartment, where almost two thirds do not work and depend on the rest who actually earn for a living. In a culture where family takes care of their own, it is by demand that we exert more pressure involuntarily on ourselves just to be able to take care of our immediate family, parents, siblings and children.
The inherent pressure to ensure “ All is well “ is the biggest challenge for a standard Pakistani family in their own country as the nearest medical store to them might be selling substandard medicines might be an illegal pharmacy with a fake license.
Who will take action on all this?
Pakistan has failed to provide basic health care to its people. Though worldwide our doctors are recognized as intelligent, skilled and committed, most of them leave the country for better opportunities overseas, leaving the public at large at the mercy of counterfeit drug suppliers, illegal clinical specialists, fake degree holder medical professionals and a shameless Health Ministry being run by a shameless government.
Rule of law in Pakistan is a dream so far. Unfulfilled aspirations of a few like-minded people must now see the light of day, to address this chronic and dangerous challenge that has become a virtual nightmare for the public and threatens our very core fabric of society and the lives of our citizens. Whether you are averaging a hundred thousand dollars a year average or less than ten thousand rupees, whether you have a job or not, whether you live in posh locality or a slum, whether you have one child or six children, whether you are educated or not – all of us are subject to the same challenge when it comes to consuming illicit and illegal drugs posing the same percentage of risk on our health.
We have a thriving drug mafia in the country which is protected by respected citizens of our own country, using money and influence to keep this business flourishing and minting illegal billions of rupees at the cost of lives. This is a matter of grave consequences where we need credible media and law enforcement agencies to help put an end of this savagery before another worldwide scam lands its way to our shores and we become another haven for all things illegal.
About the writer: Zeeshan Shah writes on IR & Public Policy – is a banker and media broadcaster _ Email : firstname.lastname@example.org