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Puzzle of paracetamols: Govt denies shortage, needy cannot get



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By Sampada A. Khatiwada
Kathmandu, Jan. 21: Along with a massive surge in COVID-19 cases after the outbreak of the Omicron variant, the Kathmandu Valley has been witnessing a shortage of paracetamols. With over 5,000 cases of coronavirus being reported daily in the Kathmandu Valley, the demand for paracetamols has, of late, increased. 

Rammaya Maharjan, whose father-in-law and husband have been suffering from COVID-19, went to a medical nearby her residence in Patan to buy paracetamols. But to her surprise, she could not find it in any of the drugstores in her area. “I went to seven medical shops asking for paracetamols, but I could not find it anywhere. It is terrifying how we cannot get access to medicines as basic as paracetamols when almost everyone is in need,” she said.

Similarly, Ajit KC, a pharmacist said, “It has been a few days we have been witnessing a shortage of paracetamols. This may be because the people tend to stock up medicines as soon as they sense a forthcoming health crisis.”
KC said that he was not able to provide paracetamols to the people for the last four days. “We have been providing alternative medicine to the customers who ask for cetamol,” he added.
A staff at Lalupate Policlinic at Pepsicola in Kathmandu-32 also said that they were without paracetamaols.

Similarly, Mrigendra Mehar Shrestha, president of Nepal Chemists and Druggists, said, “The demand of paracetamols have been higher than supply for the last five to six days. This is solely because people have been stocking it in their homes.
General Manager of Nepal Ausadhi Limited (NAL) Mohammad Shaphiullah also said that the valley had observed a scarcity of paracetamols due to the price hike of raw materials required to produce the medicine.

“The Ministry of Health and Population (MoHP) has not adjusted the price of paracetamols as per the market value from 15 years. The producers are selling paracetamols incurring loss. This has somewhat discouraged them to continue with production, which has created a shortage in the market amid the public health crisis,” said Shaphiullah.
Shrestha said that the private sector held a meeting with the Health Ministry and other stakeholders on Wednesday, in which the government agreed to initiate immediate production of the common painkiller-cetamol and provide 500,000 to 700,000 pieces in the market within a few days.

While the consumers, medicine distributors, private sectors and NAL have said that the market was facing dearth of paracetamols, the government, on the other hand, has clarified that it had enough stock of paracetamols.

Santosh KC, spokesperson for the Department of Drug Administration (DDA), said that the nation had not faced scarcity of paracetamols yet. “We have a habit of stocking up more medicines than needed during a situation of crisis. This is the reason why scarcity of paracetamols has been sensed by the consumers and distributors,” he said.
Dr. Samir Kumar Adhikari, assistant spokesperson for the MoHP, also clarified that Nepal had all medicines and equipment in stock to fight the pandemic. “There is no lack of paracetamol in the market.”

The Department of Health Services has stocked one million tablets of medicine in Pataliya store. “Similarly, there are more than 10 million tablets of paracetamols in stock in government hospitals,” he said.

In addition, we have already directed the government health authorities and supply authorities to update the details of paracetamols and other medicines immediately, said Dr. Adhikari.
He said that the Department of Health Services had already taken the procedure to procure additional paracetamols forward. “We have also called hospitals and provincial health directorates to initiate procurement procedures if they are in short of medicines,” said Dr. Adhikari.