Pharmacies in Karachi

Hey folks…. having just dived into the city two weeks ago, I have been frequented with bouts of illness previously unknown to me. From mysterious stomach disorders to rampaging variants of the influenza, I have been bombarded by them all. I feel like this city is prepping me up for a normal life (sort of like a temporary immune-developing phase), and hence making it perpetually difficult for me to log on to the net. But hey it’s all fun, even if living alone in the city can make the recovery process seem that more dreary.

Coming back to the purpose of this post, I had a strange encounter the other day, and it has left me feeling a bit disturbed.

In order to comply with my doctor’s massive prescription (he shoved a pill for every symptom I told him of), I stopped at a local pharmacy (the sign above indicated it was a medical and general store) to purchase the require medicines. On initial inspection, it seemed loaded with medicines on scores of towering shelves. And it was only when the dispensing process began that I saw some major discrepancies.

The cardboard boxes that my medicine bottle was stored inside had a couple millimeters worth of pure dust that had webbed itself together and would not go away without a damp cloth, and even then it left an indelible charcoal-colored mark. The pharmacist simply shrugged it off. On my request to have another box, I was shown that it is all the same and the bottle inside is sealed so nothing to worry about. When I saw the bottle it was indeed sealed, but the instructional leaflet was missing. Once again, when I asked how come it was removed? The answer was, ‘it’s the right medicine, don’t worry’.

Then, I needed to purchase medicine for a couple of shots (apparently doctors here tend to poke those needles into your bum quite regularly). So out came the two bottles, one was properly refrigerated and the other was not. The instructions on both of them indicated they had to be refrigerated. I asked the pharmacist again, and by now he was visibly agitated at my percieved circumspection. The answer this time was, one medicine needs the fridge and the other can survive without it. He challenged me to go next door to the neighboring pharmacy and see if they stored it in the refrigerator or not. I decided to shut up and go with the flow, thinking that is how things are probably meant to be (I tried to convince myself that the city is alive and kicking, and people continue to survive so why get all finicky?).

Next, and the most disgusting of processes was when the pharmacist took out a huge bottle of capsules, and blatantly exposed his bare palms to the opening and tapped in the exact number that the doctor had prescribed. He then cupped his palms and smoothly slid the capsules inside a small brown envelope that he first blew into to create an opening! I was appalled. No gloves. No spatulas. No mini-trays. No nothing. Bare hands! By this time, I had developed a mini-stitch in my stomach. Better sense had prevailed over me by now, and I hushedly paid for the medicines and rushed out. The pharmacist never gave any instructions on how to use the medicines and instead gave me the coldest of stares that I have had in a long, long time.

I still recall the experience everytime I pop one of the many signature pills that I take. Doctors here seem to be forwarding the interest of pharmaceutical firms much more aggresively than back elsewhere. Looking at the pharmaceutical paraphernelia flaunted inside the clinics, it seems there is a mass-marketing campaign going on. The number of pills prescribed is also outrageous…it’s like hey kiddo, here’s a skittle for the headache, and a malt ball for the runny nose, and a runts for your ear ache, and if that body aches, there you go just pop in a smarties or two, now let’s get to your tummy ache, there are a total of four more pills….yada yada yada). Pharmacies must make a bloody fortune in this country! Doctors are definetely on their side. Anyways, I am moving away from the issue of pharmacy standards.

I hate to sound so cynical guys, but I felt I had to write this. Perhaps it’s because I am not feeling that well, am alone in a new city, am up so early and have just recounted an experience that’s left me feeling disgusted and want to be more careful next time.

The questions I want to pose are:

1) Are similar practices and standards, as mentioned above, the norm in most pharmacies in Karachi or is my story a one-off incident?

2) Does the city have Health Ministry officials patrolling and inspecting pharmacies for safe conditions and proper practices?

3) Are pharmacy licences issued after thorough inspections? And do pharmacists carry pharmacology degrees or diplomas?

4) What are the names and locations of the most dependable pharmacies in Karachi? (I live near the Clifton bridge, any particular ones near me?)

5) I have heard of a thriving counterfeit drug manufacturing racket in Karachi. How true are such rumors? And, if yes, how does one differentiate between the poo and real juice?

My questions may make me look like a complete paranoia-stricken asswipe, but I feel it is important to air such experiences and apprehensions out here. I think your insights will help people new to the city get smarter about such facets to life in Karachi and adjust accordingly.

12 Comments so far

  1. umar (unregistered) on July 27th, 2005 @ 10:32 am

    welcome to karachi, my friend. unfortunately there is no walgreens over here. sooner or later you will get used to this crazyness.

  2. Saba (unregistered) on July 27th, 2005 @ 11:24 am

    Try the pharmacy counter at Agha’s Supermarket.

  3. hafsa (unregistered) on July 27th, 2005 @ 12:02 pm

    -sani’s chemist at pc

    -time medico opposite national stadium

    -kausar medicos near tower

  4. Anathema (unregistered) on July 27th, 2005 @ 12:28 pm

    Hafsa aptly mentioned the best ones. I sprained my back in April and needed heat-generating patches to relieve the muscle, and be able to walk or.. well move to say the least.

    I need “Voltral” shots and none of it was available. Sanis at PC, Kausar Medicos at Civil Hostpial and also at Defence near Submarine chowk are among the most reknowned. Though I could not get more than half the medication at these places, Aga Khan (for once, apart from its greatfully-hygenic and reliable Lab)saved me with the heat patches, the only place who had them available. besides, AKU Pharmacy is also among the few that have half the anti biotics that are not readily available.

    Some Pharmas have setup their own sales teams too but its hell trying to get ure doctor to write teh PharmaCo’s name with the medcine, to be able to arrange them.

    1. No. the standards are not the same. the pharmacist you visited was obviously not conscious. Kausar Medicos is so conscious the attemdamts wear lab cpats and sterilised gloves Most pharmacists would take out tablets on teh lid of teh bottle in the absence of gloves, and pour them into an envelope.

    2. You are in Pakistan: any officials are ony there to get a mtly salary. there is no stringent constraint/audit/performance evaluation.

    3. degrees and diplomas are long forgotten. no one respects a BSc. in pharmacy anymore.

    4. names mentioned: Sanis at PC, AKU pharmacy, Kausar Medicos and once upon a time: MidEast Hospital. Park Lane hsital will be explanding their pharmacy soon. so lets hope for there as well. OMI should be reliable too. They are among the best hospitals in Karachi: excellent doctors and excellnt sanitation.

    5. you cannot tell… jut go to a big pharmacy. never go the small ones for prescriptions unless they are popular names of medicines. always check expiry daes before buying.

  5. kaash (unregistered) on July 27th, 2005 @ 7:51 pm


    Sorry to hear your story dude..I almost cried but smiled as well on your creative sarcasm. I’m well aware about the sickness every foreigner has to face during Karachi’s visit. One advice stick with bottled water and drink lots of Lassi from a clean shop. Also eat plenty of fruits and stay away from the “thelay walas food”. And about your sickness man…well sooner or l8r you’re gonna adopt man….,,,,just like Darvin Bhayya said once “Survival of the Fittest” so keep on movin’ with da flow n enjoy Karachi..



  6. Babar (unregistered) on July 28th, 2005 @ 1:17 am

    Thanks people for such a flurry of pharmacy options, especially Anathema (your thoroughness was enlightening). I had time to kill today and made a mental note of where some of these pharmacies are. Apparently, everyone that I asked knew where the above mentioned pharmacies were (they sure are well-known).

    There may not be a Walgreens, a Rite-Aid or a CVS, but the pharmacies I did run into today were definetely worlds apart from the one that I visited a few days back. Refreshingly, they were all airconditioned, well-manned, and much much cleaner in appearance.

    Lesson of the day: “If it looks good, if it feels good, it probably is good”. Babar thinks to himself… “trust your gut instinct, the Karachi demands it!”

    Thanks for the clean Lassi advice Kaash. My mom coincidentally said the same thing today (except she tried to teach me the art of making one on a long distance overseas phone call!). Ok, gotta go now….time to fetch some grub (these Pizza Hut midnight deals are a lifesaver for a new loner). Karachi Sure Rocks! Peace.

  7. Livius (unregistered) on July 29th, 2005 @ 12:09 pm


    Does anybody know a western-owned pharmacy in Karachi, I need it for business reasons.

  8. donna (unregistered) on September 16th, 2005 @ 6:58 pm

    Does anyone know of an online pharmacy in Karachi or other mideast countries.. I’m doing a college paper and could use the info ..

    Thanks .. please print websites so that I may investigate the sites

  9. fulfillment (unregistered) on November 26th, 2005 @ 6:20 pm
  10. asaria (unregistered) on November 30th, 2005 @ 9:59 pm

    If you have a prescription then go to AGA Khan University. This is the only place in Karachi where you can fine any standard pharmacy

    Stadium Road, P.O. Box 3500,
    Karachi 74800,
    Tel: 92-21-4930051
    Fax: 92-21-4934294, 4932095

  11. ozma fazal (unregistered) on December 3rd, 2005 @ 11:59 am

    The story narrated is not a new one.I don’t think the blame should rest on any one in specific bc Pharamcy and parmacy practice is in its infancy in Pakistan, and will require some time to establlish.
    As for standard of care, one which stands above most, at teh present is the Aga Khan Hospital Pharmacy. Besides t eh main Pharmacy at teh Hospital, there are a number of outlets around the city , in Clifton, N Nazimabad, Gulshan and a few other places.You could always call at 4861504/1506 to direct any querries
    As for an online Pharmacy, the project is under way and hopefully in some time, it wil materializze insha Allah. Until then, keep up projecting te mis practices so taht they can be identified and rectified accordingly.

  12. Haroon Ghaffar (unregistered) on February 24th, 2006 @ 1:43 pm

    i want to buy the PULMICORT RESPULES 0.5mg/2ml. i live in Lahore, Pakistan. would you please help me in getting the above mention medicine. how can i purchase it and from where?



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