Friday, November 15, 2013

Drug shortage crisis hits Zimbabwe

The country is experiencing a serious shortage of life-saving clinical drugs which is having an adverse effect on the health sector, according to a senior official in the Ministry of Health.

Ropafadzo Hove, the national director for pharmacy services in the health ministry told journalists in Masvingo on Tuesday that the shortages have put the country’s disaster preparedness in limbo.

The daily Newsday newspaper reported on Wednesday that funding for essential medicines and medical supplies is falling short of requirements as the National Pharmaceutical Company of Zimbabwe (NatPharm) was unable to meet demand. NatPharm was set up to store and distribute drugs, but cannot carry out the procurement function because of lack of funding.

Government owes NatPharm $11 million and the debt has reportedly crippled most of its operations. Hove said the debt was largely for anti-retroviral treatment drugs.

‘NatPharm is not capable of procuring the drugs. The ministry owes it $11 million and it’s a moving figure which has accumulated over the years for delivery and storage of other drugs, especially ARVs, supplied by partners. This affects delivery.’ Hove said.

The National Aids Council estimates that close to 1.3 million Zimbabweans are living with HIV and about 476,000 are receiving anti-retroviral therapy.

A health expert told SW Radio Africa that the shortages could cause numerous difficulties for health care facilities, patients, and hospitals. He said NatPharm’s history of being owed money dates back to its days when it was still called the government medical stores.

‘The problem is a long existing one, as all government hospitals and clinics order supplies from NatPharm but do not pay cash upfront. This leaves the company in a crisis as they need to use cash to order new drugs,’ the expert said.

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