Deputy Commissioner (DC) Islamabad, Hamza Shafqaat, has denounced the claims of Pakistan Pharmacist Association (PPA) arguing that ban imposed on the recently declared life-saving COVID-19 drug, Dexamethasone, is in contradiction to law and should be withdrawn immediately.
On Tuesday, Oxford researchers announced that Dexamethasone, a cheap and widely available drug, can save the lives of critically ill and high-risk Coronavirus patients on ventilators and oxygen.
According to the researchers, Dexamethasone reduces the risk of death from 40% to 28% in patients on ventilators while it brings down the risk of death from 25% to 20% in patients requiring oxygen. The researchers clearly stated that consumption of Dexamethasone in low-risk COVID-19 cases and without prescription can bear unintended and detrimental consequences on health.
Soon after this announcement, reports started coming in that Dexamethasone has either become scarce in the market or is available at exorbitant rates, an otherwise cheap drug.
However, DC Islamabad took notice of the apparent shortage and issued a notification under the Epidemic Diseases Act 1958 the next morning, directing all Assistant Commissioners (ACs) to inspect all pharmacies and make sure the supply of Dexamethasone at normal price remains uninterrupted.
According to the notification, DC Islamabad ordered all pharmacies to ensure the availability of Dexamethasone at the usual price. Pharmacies were also directed to sell Dexamethasone only to consumers with a valid prescription bearing PMDC registration number of the issuing medical practitioner. Pharmacies were further ordered to keep a copy of all prescriptions in sales registers for audit purposes.
Moreover, DC Islamabad proscribed the sale of Dexamethasone at an inflated price, sale in bulk, and artificial shortage by hoarding under Profiteering and Hoarding Act 1977, the Drug Act 1976, and Schedule-II of DRAP Act 2012.
Rather than lauding the proactive approach of DC Islamabad, Pakistan Pharmacist Association (PPA) issued a joint statement which read:
The notification issued empowering ACs to conduct inspection of pharmacies and take action under the Profiteering and Hoarding Act 1977, the Drug Act 1976, and Schedule-II of DRAP Act 2012 is not in consonance with the legal provisions. The law empowers the Drug Inspectors to perform such functions. Coronavirus is everywhere in Pakistan but no other provincial government issued such illegal notification. The notification should be withdrawn and such functions may be entrusted to the Drug Control Department.
In response, DC Islamabad took to Twitter to assert that the ban will not be revoked despite PPA’s understandable hue and cry.
No sir we will not withdraw this notification. We cannot allow exploitation of patients at the hands of pharmacies. This is issued in accordance with law as envisaged in The Epidemic Diseases Act 1958 https://t.co/cg7fPU58Ux
— Office of Deputy Commissioner Islamabad (@dcislamabad) June 18, 2020