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Burma’s electricity woes harm medicines, risk lives

The irregular electrical current across Burma is having a severe impact on the potency of various medicines that should be kept at specifically refrigerated temperatures, a senior doctor told DVB on Monday.

Dr Paing Soe Kyaw said liquid medications used in injections are more affected than oral medicines because of the need to maintain vaccines at strictly controlled temperatures.

“If medicines cannot be stored at fixed refrigerated temperatures they will lose their potency and effectiveness,” he said. “Medication for cancer is especially vulnerable, as are vaccines for tetanus and rabies.”

The Mandalay-based physician cited cases of diabetic persons dying due to the ineffectiveness of insulin that had not been refrigerated.


Most hospitals in Rangoon have generators but many do not in other parts of the country. Burma’s national grid only reaches a quarter of the country’s 60 million people and even in Rangoon, only two-thirds of homes are connected. Blackouts are common and many families and business owners rely on generators for power.

Pharmacies in all regions are also victims of the power shortage. Paing Soe Kyaw warned customers about buying drugs from pharmacists that have been unable to refrigerate their medicines.

“I would advise people to buy medicine only from stores which keep materials refrigerated systematically,” he said.

The most recent survey by the World Health Organization ranked Burma as worst for healthcare out of 194 surveyed nations. Only 3.9 percent of GDP is spent on healthcare in Burma, a figure that is astonishingly low even by comparison to its most impoverished of neighbours – Laos spends 4.5 percent of GDP on health while the figure is 5.6 percent in Cambodia.



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