On the Drug Deficit Panic

The escalation of the coronavirus pandemics has caused a panic in Kazakhstan. Which, in its turn, resulted in a dramatic jump of the demand for the medical services and drugs; the demand that cannot be satisfied even in theory.

As a consequence, the «super-presidential» vertical has found itself in a dire situation  since Akorda and the Library are incapable of either immediately responding to the citizens’ demand or reasonably limiting it. The only thing that they are capable of is a political gesture.

These include: a) the address of President Kossym-Jomart Tokayev to the Kazakh citizens and b) his order to declare July 13, 2020 the national day of mourning in commemoration of the citizens that have fallen the victim of the coronavirus pandemics.

As for the practical steps on the part of the authorities, they boil down to the fight against the physical and legal bodies that have chosen to make profit on the drug demand panic. From the ethical standpoint, theses so-called «fly-by-night operators» are certainly in the wrong, however, it is simply foolish to expect anything else in the market-economy environment. And, most importantly, these efforts of the authorities will not bring much result as the Soviet history has taught us.

This raises the question that Akorda and the Library must answer not with political gestures but with real action — how to satisfy the demand for medical services and medical drugs in the immediate future?

Theoretically, there may be three solutions for this healthcare/social problem that can be implemented in a relatively short time period:

1) a dramatic increase of the import and production of the drugs for which there is a particular demand so that they will be offered at least in a part of a residential area’s pharmacies (if not in all or them);

2) the management of the drug demand — when the citizens, with the assistance of doctors and pharmacists, can buy the drugs that are available at the moment and may help them;

3) the firm control of the supply, distribution and sale of drugs in the country.

The problem, however, lies in he fact that none of these solutions can be realised in Kazakhstan (at least for the time being). Since the introduction of the firm control of the supply, distribution and sale of drugs in the country when practically the entire pharmaceutical market is owned by private hands will, at the very least, require the nationalisation of basically the entire sector.

Actually, this process already began with the creation of quasi-governmental company SK-Farmatsia (SK-Pharmacy) in 2009 but then slowed down being met with resistance on the part of both — big wholesale companies (suppliers and pharmacy chains belonging to very influential members of Nursultan Nazarbayev’s family) and owners of small pharmacies.

Besides, the nationalisation of the sector will require quite some time and effort which may even include the nationalisation of the entire pharmacy network and storage facilities. In our opinion, Akorda and the Library are unlikely to attempt something like that. Apart from that, one must not forget about the omnipresent corruption, nepotism and the desire to make any kind of profit.

A country-wide effective drug demand management may be possible only given the across-the-board discipline of the citizens and their readiness to follow the orders of doctors as pharmacists as well as the ability of the latter to provides service to those asking for them. All of this is in such a short supply in Kazakhstan that it would be pure madness to even try and attempt implementing this project.

The dramatic increase of the import and production of drugs is what the state is attempting now (judging from the text of the Presidents’s address to the citizens of July 8, 2020, and the official announcements of the Ministry of Healthcare and the local authorities).

In our opinion, the efficiency of these efforts is going to be more that limited since, first of all, the demand will invariably surpass the supply in individual residential areas and at certain points in time; second of all, a significant percentage of the citizens simply does not have enough money to buy the required medications.

Therefore, one should not expect Akorda and the Library to take some coherent steps. They are fated to do the only thing they can do — imitate frenzied activities over and over again in the hope that a problem will disappear by itself and conduct the ritualistic personnel reshuffles by firing high-rank officials they choose as the «scapegoats».

Cover photo from Saida Taukeleva’s Facebook page 


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