One doctor in Gakkhar Mandi, a small city in Gujranwala, is known for running a dispensary adjacent to his clinic, staffed by his uneducated brother. Scores of deaths have taken place due to maladministration of drugs, and the poor people have no recourse to any legal action.
This is not an isolated case. In fact, this is a story of every village, town and city from Karachi to the north of the country. In public hospitals, medicines are either not available or are in insufficient supply. Furthermore, there have been frequent scandals around drugs.
In this backdrop, a bureaucrat called Javaid Nisar Syed, set up a trust in Lahore with five stated objectives: To disburse free medicines to the disadvantaged, supply drugs to NGOs on cost prices, provide medical facilities through ICTs; undertake joint ventures with NGOs and enter into public private partnerships; and to create awareness amongst masses around health issues.
Launched last year, the MediBank trust has started its operations in a number of cities across the country. Given the passion of its founder and numerous other examples of altruism and commitment to social responsibility in the country, one must hope that this venture will break the vicious circle of trust deficit in the health sector in Pakistan.
“The real value proposition of MediBank is not in its own operating model but the impact it can create through other social sector organisations,” said Saleem Ranjha.
Through Wan Miana Rural Development Programme, Saleem Ranjha has already created an integrative platform through which microfinance, free education, sustainable and progressive farming, health services, and production of solar energy are coordinated for productive and distributive efficiency. MediBank has already been integrated in the Wan Miana Rural Development Programme.
It is interesting to look into the operating model of MediBank. It is set up as a zero-donation-based trust having assets of 40 drugs produced by Helicon Pharma, claimed to be worth Rs1.2 billion. The donated drugs comprise 50% of Helicon’s established drug registration. The remaining 50% remains in the ownership of Helicon Pharma. The MediBank Trust aims to sell these 40 drugs to utilise surplus income to set up MediBank clinics and TeleMed centres.
MediBank is necessarily a Patient Assistance Programme (PAP), similar to what many pharmaceutical firms in the USA run to provide free or discounted medications to people who cannot afford to pay for them.
MediBank is no different from other PAPs. It may cynically be deemed as a marketing ploy to increase profitability of Helicon Pharma. However, what is unique about MediBank is that it is setup as a separate trust that is endowed with 40 drugs produced by Helicon Pharma. Through the sale of these drugs, MediBank will develop a nationwide infrastructure for patient assistance. This is an interesting business model, which should have implications for development of Awqaf in Pakistan.
There are thousands of Awqaf properties across the country, in prime locations in big cities like Karachi and Lahore to some of the remotest rural areas in the country.
Since its inception last year, MediBank has setup 5 clinics in Peshawar, Islamabad and Lahore, mainly at established hospitals and private clinics. It has received significant momentum in the last two months during which it has initiated 30 satellite clinics. The above-mentioned Awqaf proposition could help it achieve impressive results in terms of outreach and depth of its operations.
Apart from the obvious benefits, MediBank can be used to reform the business and practices of pharmacy profession. There are only a few pharmacies in every city, which are reasonably trusted by people.
The proposed MediBank pharmacies should be developed as the most trusted brand nationwide for its commitment to social responsibility, quality and other dispensing services. It should employ only qualified personnel. On the back of its inevitable success, a social sector campaign should be launched against those doctors and drug stores that employ non-qualified staff and consequently cause deaths for hundreds of people on an annual basis.