Fatema Begum, a 34-year-old from Dhaka’s Kallyanpur area has been suffering from chikungunya for the last 15 days. And the shortage of paracetamol suppositiories in the market has just added to her suffering.
“I have been trying to buy some for the last two weeks. But it is not available in the market,” she said and explained that the medicine was prescribed by her doctor to tackle the joint aches and bring down the high fever that accompanies the mosquito-borne disease.
A private university student in Dhaka, Md Rizvi, is yet to overcome the severe pain in several joints of his body although he is in the fourth day of the fever. He also failed to get his hands on the much-needed suppositories.
The wax-like round or cone-shaped form of the popular over the counter medicine is usually administered through the rectum, which, once inside, melts and ensures speedy intake and reaction.
Usually administered to speedily bring down high fevers or tackle pain, the recent outbreak of the chikungunya virus has seen a sudden hike in the demand for paracetamol suppositories, catching the large medicine producers in the country off guard.
Suppositories produced by popular local companies such as Beximco Pharmaceuticals Ltd, Opsonin Pharma Ltd, Square Pharmaceuticals Ltd, ACME Laboratories Ltd, and ACI Pharmaceuticals have seemingly disappeared from the market.
“We are forced to turn down roughly 30 customers looking for paracetamol suppositories every day because of crisis in supply,” said Ziad Mahmud Samit, owner of Asian Drugs in Kalabagan.
He added, “You will see the same scenario at the other drugstores in the city.”
Pharmacy owners and employees have pointed out that as the number of chikungunya-affected patients are soaring, so is the demand for Paracetamol 500mg suppositories and Napa 500 suppositories.
“Since there is no specific medication for Chikungunya, patients are having to rely on suppositories to reduce the pain and the fever as it works quicker than its orally-administered versions,” said Chandan Shah, a salesman at Lazz Pharma in Kalabagan, Dhaka.
But the drugstore owners and employees also claimed the shortage might be “short-lived” as the pharmaceutical companies have upped the supply to the market.
“Over the past two weeks, the supply of suppositories have increased, but it is still not enough to meet the hike in demand,” said Md Kashem, owner of Kashem Drugs in Kalabagan.
Over one month, until July 14, the Institute of Epidemiology, Disease Control and Research (IEDCR) received 1,249 emails from several hospitals in the capital alerting them about the rise in Chikungunya-infected patients.
Experts at a programme organised by Dhaka North City Corporation on July 14 claimed the viral infection has already turned into an epidemic.
They also stressed on speedy steps to contain mosquitoes, specially the Aedes variety, as they fear that the situation might become uncontrollable since they not spread chikungunya but dengue and zika as well.