‘Huge piles of expired drugs at NatPharm facilities’

…need to have qualified pharmacists in hospitals to monitor drug supplies

The country’s national pharmaceutical company (NatPharm) has huge piles of expired medicines and drugs in its warehouse yet some medical institutions have nothing in their stocks, Parliament head.

This comes at a time when public hospitals in Zimbabwe are hit by severe drug shortages and medicines, a situation that is worsened by poor distribution networks.

A report compiled by the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Health and Child Care, said it was sad that patients were turned away at public health institutions, as they had no medicines yet drugs were stored at warehouses until they expired.

The report, is a second one of the state of the medicines and drugs supply in the country.

Chairperson of the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Health and Child Care, Dr Ruth Labode blamed poor distribution of medicines as one of the reasons why drugs expired in warehouses.

“Drugs are delivered to the first hospitals or clinics that make requests and other institutions are not considered thereafter.

“I believe that if we are serious as a country, we must make sure we share and distribute whatever resources we have, no matter how scarce so that even the farthest institutions receive something. The poor movement of drugs is a cause of concern,” she said.

Dr Labode said there is a need for Natpharm to come up with strategies to equally distribute drugs in all hospitals and clinics.

“The drugs are moved and expire at point A when point B up to Z have nothing and are yet to receive. The health ministry and pharmacists need to come up with a strategy on how they can deliver and share medicines to all public institutions.

“This used to be done in previous years were pharmacists at provincial hospitals made sure each institution received an allocation from NatPharm,” said the health activist.

She also urged hospitals to learn how to circulate drugs and medication to other branches, especially if they purchased excesses.

“If a hospital sees that they acquired too much of a certain drug, it is supposed to phone another and circulate the drugs within the system. Nothing wrong with saying one hospital is overstocked and asks another if they need the drugs,” said Dr. Labode

Another legislator, Doubt Ndiweni, noted there is a need for hospitals to have qualified pharmacists in hospitals to monitor drug supplies.

“Currently, most district hospitals do not have pharmacists. Municipal clinics do not have pharmacists while maybe Harare City Council may have one or two pharmacists, although they look after the health of millions in the country. Proper drug supply and provision is done when the medicines are monitored in order to avoid stocking up on expired drugs due to lack of qualified pharmacists,” he said.

The Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Health and Child Care highlighted why devolution and decentralising NatPharm was necessary as it would improve timeous deliveries of medicines to public health institutions.

The committee also called on the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development to expedite the approval of a board of survey that would make sure the expired drugs are destroyed by October 31,  2019. 

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