15 August 2017
THE Minister of Health and Child Care David Parirenyatwa is optimistic that the drug shortages that the country’s major hospitals are currently facing might soon be a thing of the past after the clearance of the
National Pharmaceutical Company of Zimbabwe debt.
The National Pharmaceutical Company of Zimbabwe (NatPharm) was owed over US $25 million by Government hospitals, a debt that had crippled its operations and reducing it into a storage facility for donor funded medicines.
Minister Parirenyatwa last Thursday told journalists that through Treasury, the Government had since cleared its debt, a development that is expected to boost drug supplies in hospitals across the country.
“We are pleased to tell you that the Government has since cleared its debt to NatPharm and this should go a long way in capacitating NatPharm.
“NatPharm is beginning to put its feet up completely and we are optimistic that this reflects towards the provision of more medicines and drugs to our institutions and for the first time, we are going to see that improvement happening in the next few weeks.
“All national medicines, generally that were in short supply, would improve. As Ministry we are really positive that the drug situation in the country is set to improve as NatPharm has been capacitated through the payment of this debt,” he said.
The debt was owed by the Ministry of Health and Child Care in costs incurred through the warehousing and distribution of drugs donated by various partners.
Nat-Pharm procures drugs in bulk for more than 1450 health institutions across the country and the debt had almost crippled the parastatal’s ability to perform its mandate.
The Health Minister expressed hope that the capacitating of NatPharm should result in the country being able to provide for its own medicines unlike the current situation where 98 percent of the drugs are donor funded.
“We also hope that as time passes, we will not be wholly donor dependent as we hope to be able to provide our won drugs unlike the current situation where 98 percent of our drugs are coming from donors.
“We appreciate the continued support from donors but we would like a healthy situation where we can be in control of our drug situation.”
NatPharm managing director, Flora Sifeku last week said they appreciated the effort by the Government to clear the debt through treasury bills noting that this will go a long way in capacitating NatPharm.
“Yes indeed the Government has since honoured its debt, a move that is going to help us get back on our feet.
“We are now able to procure drugs for the Ministry of Health and Child Care following the debt payment and that should really go a long way in easing the drug shortage that the country has been facing.
“We want situation where we can buy drugs from the local pharmaceutical companies, as these have the capacity to produce most of the drugs that are needed in the country. There are so many products that are being imported not because they cannot be manufactured in the country but because the local pharmaceuticals have been in capacitated,” she said.
The country over the years has been relying on donors for its drugs with over 98 percent of the medicines being donor funded as hospitals have continued to grapple with serious shortages of life-saving clinical drugs.
The funding challenges at NatPharm had left the local health sector in a precarious position as many pharmaceutical companies were also being owed millions of dollars by the parastatal.
Zimbabwe was once the second largest drug manufacturing country in the region outside South Africa with nine licensed pharmaceutical companies.
However, the majority of the companies are operating below capacity and surviving through lines of credit resulting in the country importing intravenous fluids among other products that can be manufactured locally.
The Ministry of Health and Child Care has been failing to service the debt, claiming that it is also not getting adequate fiscal support from treasury.