The Sunday Mail
The availability of essential medicines in public health institutions has significantly increased from 52 percent to 65 percent in the last two months after Government availed funds for the life-saving drugs.
Essential drugs are described by the World Health Organisation (WHO) as medicines that satisfy the priority needs of the population.
Government expects the situation to get even better due to improved funding from Treasury and the decision by authorities to do away with third parties, which were bogging down the procurement process.
Health and Child Care Permanent Secretary Dr Agnes Mahomva told The Sunday Mail that most essential drugs were now available in hospitals and clinics.
“There has been a significant improvement in the availability of medicines in the past months, increasing from 52 percent to about 65 percent,” she said.
“Government availed funds to finance the 48-hour tender which ensured that new procurement of medicines were paid for and subsequently received.”
An expected delivery of US$2 million worth of drugs donated by the Indian government would also augment available stocks.
Government, Dr Mahomva added, has adequate antiretroviral (ARV) drugs, contrary to market rumour alleging the drugs had run out.
“We do not have expired medicines being issued to our health facilities.
“However, do note that we did have one ARV combination that had its shelf life extended in line with approved scientific standards.”
There are, however, still concerns over high drug prices, especially in private pharmacies, as some of them are allegedly selling their products in United States dollars.
But Government insists that the law will soon take its course. Health and Childcare Minister Dr Obadiah Moyo recently indicated that pharmacies that flagrantly disregard the law risk deregistration.
Pharmaceutical Society of Zimbabwe president Mr Portifa Mwendera said local drug prices naturally track the movement of the exchange rate since most of them are imported.
“The cost of medicines in Zimbabwe is considered in the light that close to 90 percent of our pharmaceutical products are imported directly or the raw materials used thereof are also directly imported,” he said.
“The import component thereby makes the products track the exchange rate very closely.
“Because there has been no movement in the incomes of our population that matches the movement in the direct costs to medicines from the 1:1 that existed prior to the 22nd of February, the price of medicines has continually been getting exorbitant to the generality of the population.”
Mr Mwendera said it was not fair to compare Zimbabwean products with source markets like South Africa where manufacturers have different pricing policies for local and export markets. The country has been facing drug shortages due to the foreign currency crunch.
Government has, however, introduced a raft of corrective measures to address the situation.
Cabinet recently resolved to support the National Pharmaceutical Company (NatPharm) in order to help it discharge its mandate of making drugs readily available in public health institutions.