Pakistan’s fiscal year 2021-22 budget provides a boost to funding for the country’s universal health scheme, according to Fitch Solutions. The country is making several improvements in its healthcare delivery system and has established several reforms; however, opportunities for multinational drugmakers will continue to be marred by underlying issues within the healthcare system. According to Fitch, Pakistan’s health budget increased to meet the challenges of Covid-19, which shook the health sector. On June 11 2021, Finance Minister Shaukat Tarin presented the Rs8.48 trillion (USD540bn) federal budget for fiscal year 2021/22 (FY22) in the National Assembly. While allocating PRK96bn (USD620mn) towards health for the fiscal year, the Punjab government has earmarked for the first time PKR80bn (USD510mn) under the universal health insurance programme for the 110 million population of the province. Under the programme, Punjab’s entire population will be provided free standard treatment at any designated private or public sector hospital in the province. The government has set a deadline of December 31 2021 to register the residents of all the 36 districts of the province to start provision of free healthcare facilities through the health insurance (Sehat Insaf Card). The Punjab government also allocated PRK10bn (USD64mn) for the procurement of the coronavirus vaccine. Efforts are being made to improve the healthcare system in Pakistan, but will take time to deliver gains. Like many of its neighbouring emerging Asian markets, Pakistan is attempting to achieve universal healthcare access to quality essential health services, with a particular focus on vulnerable groups. Pakistan Vision 2025 reflects the government’s commitment to investing in the social sector including health as a top priority and the National Health Vision (NHV) 2025 provides a single, shared vision for universal health care, especially for women and children in the country, said Fitch Solutions. One of the key actions under the NHV is the formulation of the Pakistan Human Resources for Health Vision 2018-2030 to address the country’s health workforce challenges. Despite the increasing political will in Pakistan to develop the healthcare sector, given the government’s poor track record of implementing planned healthcare sector reforms, there is a possibility that the implementation of such improvements will be delayed, said Fitch Solutions. There are numerous weaknesses which will affect the sector’s development, including poor governance, lack of access and unequal resources, poor health information management systems, corruption in the health system, a lack of monitoring in health policy and health planning, and a lack of trained staff. The Covid-19 pandemic has amplified the critical need to speed up efforts for universal healthcare in Pakistan. Pakistan’s healthcare system remains significantly underfunded, restricting the provision of high-quality care, and therefore limiting the opportunity for high-value medicine sales, said Fitch Solutions.