Tuesday, December 7, 2021

Drug shortage cripples public health facilities

Scores of Batswana are being turned away from private and public health facilities because there is no treatment for their diseases as Botswana buckles under global supply chain issues which are causing prescription drug shortages, a situation the American Medical Association calls “ an urgent public health crisis.”

Sunday Standard investigations have revealed that among drugs currently in short supply in Botswana are venofer which is administered to dialysis patients  other prescription drugs such as epillim, midazolam, diazepam medical supplies such as neck collars and ABG machines. It is feared the situation may get worse before it gets better as exporting countries are also going through a supply chain crunch.

In all, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) now lists more than 100 medications that are in short supply.

The American Medical Association told CBS News this week that the drug shortage is an “urgent public health crisis” that “threatens patient care and safety.” The American Society of Health-System Pharmacists noted that three of the top five shortages are drugs used for chemotherapy and heart conditions as well as antibiotics.

Chief Public Relations Officer in the Ministry of Health and Wellness Dr Christopher Nyanga acknowledged that public health facilities have run dry of certain medical drugs.

“It is true that we have in the recent past experienced shortage of some medical supplies including some drugs that you mention such as epillim. Others like midazolam are not in short supply as you say. The COVID-19 pandemic has made it difficult for most countries especially in the developing world, to access medical supplies at the rate and quantities that they require. This is because COVID-19 has slowed down drug production which inevitably affected delivery timelines,”

“As a result, health facilities in Botswana and elsewhere across the world have been experiencing shortages and delayed arrival of certain drugs and medical supplies,” said Nyanga.

He further said the delayed delivery of drugs resulting in this shortage in public facilities, was mainly experienced from the last quarter of the 2020/2021 financial year.

“As already indicated the challenge has been the delayed delivery of drugs and other medical supplies, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic which has slowed down the supply chain of all products and commodities, including medical supplies.”

“Like with all aspects of the global economy, we believe that medical commerce has begun the recovery process, post COVID-19. We therefore, anticipate production and supply of drugs and medical supplies to improve in the coming months,” added Nyanga.

Nyanga said in the meantime, government has put in place some measures to avert any deterioration of the drug shortage situation in the country, adding that multiple drug procurement initiatives have been conducted, including procurement of alternative drugs to ensure that all patients receive drugs in good time.

“The ministry resorted to use of available alternative drugs to avert situations where patients go for a long time without treatment. Expediting the procurement process was another initiative to ensure that the drug shortage does not morph in to a crisis. Because of this intervention, some anticonvulsant drugs like Phenytoin, which can be used as an alternative to epillim, have been procured and will be delivered in the next two weeks,” said Nyanga.

On the other hand, The Minister of Health and Wellness Dr Edwin Dikoloti recently admitted before a gathering in Serowe on Tuesday that there is insufficient supply of medical drugs.

He indicated that the shortage of medical drugs was caused by many factors including the outbreak of Covid-19.

He said the restriction of movement in persons also contributed to the shortage, adding that they have now taken a decision to allow independent pharmaceuticals to distribute medical drugs.

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