End to medication woes

2015-07-31 07:56

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CLINICS and hospitals running out of ­essential medication may soon be a thing of the past as discussions on ­establishing a state pharmaceutical company are under way.

With the recent reports of a nation-wide stock out of the ARV Abacavir and of penicillin, hospitals in and around ­Pietermaritzburg reported shortages of other medication ranging from iron ­tablets for pregnant women to paracetamol and medication for epilepsy.

KwaZulu-Natal was one of the provinces most affected by the shortages, being called a “problem province” by a senior official of the South African Medical ­Association. With the call to remedy the shortage and any future shortages, KZN Health MEC Dr Sibongiseni Dhlomo said yesterday that the department was looking into establishing a state-owned pharmaceutical company to make, ­supply and distribute medication around the nation and Africa.

Whilst addressing the KZN ­legislature yesterday afternoon, he said that on June 5, national Health ­Minister Dr Aaron Motsoaledi held a meeting on the medicine shortages with all health MECs, heads of Health ­departments and the executives of Drug Pharmaceutical Service Providers.

“The agenda here was the issue of shortages and the implemented remedial measures to correct the problem.”

He referred to the statement issued by Motsoaledi on the outcome of the meeting which found the manufacturers of the essential medicines experiencing shortages were faced with problems ­specific to each product.

Motsoaledi said they found that there were difficulties sourcing the ingredients and other raw materials for the medications as well as “unforeseen ­delays in the formulation and packaging of medicines”.

He said there had also been an ­unanticipated increase in demand for a particular medicine and none of the manufacturers cited non-payment by government as an issue.

Referring to the increase in demand of medication, Dhlomo said they found that because of the efficacy of ARVs people were living longer and therefore the need for ARVs and other medication had increased.

“We are dependent on the two ­countries that are producing active ingredients to manufacture drugs and there is no clinic that does not have medication because we failed to pay for it.

“We are ordering on time, we are ­paying on time; it is the factories that are not manufacturing enough.

“It is our intention to open our own pharmaceutical industry. It is ­something that we need to work quite a bit on but we do not want to keep this just as a thought, we want to see this through,” said Dhlomo.

He said they would need the advice and expertise of those with knowledge of the private and public pharmaceutical sector to get the project going. “We are the biggest consumer of ARVs, so can you imagine, that at any given time, you … can get ARVs straight into the clinics. Not only would that be helpful to our country, but to Africa as well.

“The sub-Saharan countries are the ones with the heavy burden of disease such as TB and HIV so it must be easy for us all to get medication.”

WITH the announcement of the state’s plan to establish a ­government pharmaceutical company in South Africa, came another announcement that the state would no longer allow unplanned oversight visits to state hospitals.

Dhlomo said yesterday that oversight visits by MPLs to public healthcare facilities would no longer be allowed if permission from the Health Department had not been obtained first.

“Protocol states that no one should enter any health facility, even if you are an MP, without notice to the Health Department first,” said Dhlomo.

DA MPL Dr Imran Keeka said in a statement yesterday in response to Dhlomo that this was not a democratic decision.

“When someone decides that members of this House need permission to perform their oversight duty, they interfere with the clear separation of powers granted by constitutional provisions. Our protest against such a threat must be pronounced and must be outright.

“Healthcare facilities are only as good as the ingredients — in particular the human ingredient — manpower.

“Infrastructure and machines mean nothing without those trained to be there.

“Our facilities are able to expose failures. If we do not work hard to remedy them and instead gloss over and fail to interrogate them, we will never achieve true freedom or a fair government and we certainly will not have widespread opportunities,” he said.

— WR

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  health  |  medication

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