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.