Rupee crunch exacerbates drug shortage

While drugs are already in short supply, the rupee crunch is making the situation worse in the capital.

The Operation Manager of Karma Tshongkhang (under Karma Group of Companies), Sonam Pemo, said if the INR crunch continues, there are good chances of their supplies being blocked. “If our supplies get blocked, then the health ministry and the pharmacies will face further problems.”

Sonam Pemo explained that the company dealt with more than 30 Indian companies and had supplies coming in two to three times a month, with the costs sometimes exceeding Nu 3mn.

Earlier, she said the payment used to take about a day’s time but now it usually takes about two days. “We are working on a tight schedule.”

Ngangpa Pharmacy and Medical, a wholesaler dealing with five Indian companies has been facing a similar predicament. “What used to be paid in a day’s time now takes about a week because the documents have to be verified with a clearance check; this has led to the supplies not arriving on time,” said the salesperson, Tek Bahadhur.

“We don’t even have the basic cough syrup in our stock,” he said.

The Ministry of Health (MoH) had been given time till April 15 to address the drug shortage in the country but with the rupee crunch exacerbating the situation, drugs suppliers in the capital have already started to feel the pinch.

Essential drugs like Asthalin inhaler for asthma, Beclate inhaler, Grilinctus cough syrup, Dexorange, Immodium capsules, Vitamin C, Cadbe multivitamin syrup, children’s glycerine suppositories, Mucodryl syrup, Genteal eyedrops, and Bonisan syrup have been been in short supply since the INR problem cropped up.

Most complain that the hospital when it prescribes painkillers usually provides Paracetomol or Brufin (pain killers) only so the patients visit pharmacies but even the basic prescribed medicines are not available in the shops.

Brother Chatra  Bahadhur of Himalaya Medicals, said, “Our orders have been blocked and our earlier supplies are finished, we have asked our suppliers in Thimphu but all of them have said that it will take a while.”

Brother Chatra Bhadhur said in a day they saw about 50 to 150 customers and most have to go without medicines. Kuenphen Medical and other pharmacies also agreed that they had were facing similar problems.

Thimphu has 25 registered drug suppliers of which only a handful are operating within the city.

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