New year, new crisis.

REGULATORY hurdles and heavy-handed government policies have created some dangerous externalities for the country's healthcare sector, where we may soon see an unprecedented crisis if immediate action is not taken. Stakeholders have warned of a wide-ranging emergency in the coming weeks as healthcare providers run out of essential medicines, medical devices, laboratory tests and various implements needed for the entire spectrum of medical and surgical procedures, including lifesaving interventions. In fact, according to representatives of the pharmaceutical and medical devices industries, the country has already crossed the crisis threshold. They blame months of inaction by the federal cabinet in response to a trifecta of challenges that have seriously hampered their industries' ability to cater to domestic needs. These challenges include bank delays in opening letters of credit for most importers; a condition requiring the registration of all medical imports with the Drug Regulatory Authority of Pakistan; and the government's continuing failure to revise drug prices despite drastic changes in the pharma economy over the past year.

In recent months, there have been multiple warning signs about the deteriorating situation in the healthcare sector. The most prominent of these was the shortage of basic drugs in local markets, such as Panadol. Likewise, citizens who recently required important medical procedures, such as the implantation of cardiac pacemakers, reported being told to wait as hospitals were rationing available devices due to supply constraints. The drug shortage was attributable to the flawed regime...

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