treat, but can now be treated with pharmaceutical drugs. Improving access to high-quality drugs – at or below current retail prices – will likely outcomes for Pakistanis who are most vulnerable to being the victims of counterfeit medication fraud. And it will come at a time when Pakistan’s pharmaceutical sector is increasingly part of the larger global pharmaceutical supply chain. For instance, in 2014, Gilead Sciences – the US-based pharmaceutical giant – announced a partnership with Ferozsons Laboratories for the manufacturing of Sovaldi and Harvoni, two drugs that can cure hepatitis C, a disease that was previously thought of as a chronic condition that could only be managed, but not cured. And Pakistan is now part of the global drug trial network for the Covid-19 vaccines being developed by pharmaceutical companies based in other parts of the world. Rare, expensive drugs, in other words, are becoming increasingly available at (relatively) affordable prices to Pakistani consumers, if the adequate safety and anti-counterfeiting measures are taken. An online pharmacy that can disintermediate the most vulnerable portions of the supply chain – the wholesalers – can help expand access to that world of therapies. If, on the other hand, you are a retailer, wholesaler, or even distributor of pharmaceutical products, you would likely look at Dawaai as a competitive threat. After all, Dawaai’s view is that these intermediary layers serve only to increase the price that consumers end up chain that has not been developed by anyone currently making money off of it. And Dawaai’s success at disintermediating those layers of middlemen has in turn already inspired the launch of other online pharmacies, the most recent of which is MedznMore, which includes as its cofounders a former Dawaai employee and raised $2.6 million from anonymous investors just this month to start operations. (The company is too new for us to analyse it in any detail yet.) for a while. According to one source familiar with the matter, Imtiaz Supermarket, one of the largest retail chains in Karachi, sells as much as $10 million a month in pharmaceutical products however, Dawaai is likely to become a competitive threat to anyone in the pharmaceutical supply chain. “Given the knowledge that has been built up by Furquan and the resilience he has demonstrated, we think they can become one of the largest pharma movers in the country,” said Rabeel Warraich, founder at Sarmayacar Ventures, which led the last round of investment into Dawaai. “It could even be taken beyond Pakistan, though of course Pakistan is a large enough market to build a very valuable business.” In order to be successful, however, Dawaai will have to ensure that it invests in developing a better infrastructure than its competitors, a strategic imperative that might be in business model, which involves rented facilities rather that wholly owned ones. Pharmaceutical products can often require temperature-controlled supply chains from the factory to the customer’s doorstep, particularly for some high-cost, high-margin products. Pakistan’s cold-chain infrastructure, while improving, is still nowhere near as extensive as it needs to be. Conclusion A fter years of neglect, it appears that Pakistan’s healthcare sector is it deserves, both from policymakers seeking to improve access, as well as from tech-enabled enterprises seeking to improve - ly to be a healthier population and a healthcare system that delivers better outcomes at a lower cost. COVER STORY 18
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