Sunday, July 5, 2020

SA drugs export restrictions throttle

Botswana chronic diseases patients who rely on medicine imported from South Africa are in dire straits following Pretoria’s COVID-19 Export Control Regulation. South Africa, which is reeling from a spike in cases of the virus, introduced new export regulations aimed at fighting the coronavirus pandemic. Sunday Standard can reveal that there was panic at the government enclave during the nation-wide lockdown after it emerged that the introduction of the export regulation that came into effect following South Africa President Cyril Ramaphosa declaring coronavirus a state of national disaster had a knock-on effect on Botswana pharmaceutical companies as they ran out of stock.  Sunday Standard can further reveal that the issue has become a subject of intense discussion at Botswana Medical Regulatory Authority (BOMRA), pharmaceutical companies and among patients especially those suffering from cancer.

Following a declaration of state of national disaster by Ramaphosa South Africa’s Department of Trade and Industry introduced new export control measures on 27 March 2020. In terms of the COVID-19 Export Control Regulation (COVID-19 Regulation), goods listed in Schedule 4 shall not be exported from the Republic of South Africa except by virtue of an export permit issued by South Africa’s International Trade Administration Commission of South (ITAC).  Among such goods are antisera and other blood fractions; vaccines for human medicine; and medicaments. According to South African media, especially independent television news channel eNCA, diabetic, hypertensive, and even cancer patients in Botswana are suffering the knock-on effect of the new export regulations which may have harrowing ripple effects on Batswana.

Immediate comment from BOMRA was not available.The organization’s spokesperson Itumeleng Ledimo on Friday informed this publication that they were “working on a questionnaire” from Sunday Standard but had not submitted the response at the time of going to press.For his part, Medswana Managing Director Mark Fallows confirmed to Sunday Standard that: “Present shortage is on a few Anti-hypertensive medications which will be received tomorrow (Saturday) by wholesalers and will be supplied to Pharmacies, which will relax the crises, there are still numerous Oncology lines that are out of stock and need to be supplied.”

But Fallows revealed that the South African Minister of Trade cancelled the requirements for all export products to have an export permit.  Thus, he said as pharmaceuticals, they expect an influx of all pending orders next week into Botswana.“There are currently still a few hospital Anti-infectives, Analgesics outstanding. We also have a huge shortage on Thyroid Medication, but this has been mainly due to a shortage in RSA (South Africa, coupled with the ITAC permit scenario. There is also quite a lot of Acute medication, cough preparations, cold and flu preparations and Immune Boosters still outstanding,” he said.

According to Fallows, “Companies have taken quite a knock as they were open as essential services, however with limited supplies into country it was difficult to meet the medication demands of the public.”More especially, he said, was the concern on chronic patients who could not receive their medication due to this delay and confusion by International Trade Authorizations Commission on the release of ITAC (Export) Permits for Botswana.Asked if they engaged BOMRA on this crisis, Fallows replied in the affirmative.“Yes, we as a Company did as well as BOPHARMA (Botswana Wholesaler and Manufacturer Association) did meet the Director of Clinical Services to raise the potential issue we foresaw in April already in order to intervene. Director did address to Minister of Health and Wellness as well as to Ministry of Trade and Industry. Ministry of Trade did allocate a mediator/facilitator to intervene with ITAC on situation in Botswana,” he said.

Fallows added: “BOMRA did interact with their counterparts in South Africa namely SAHPRA on the matter to assist and who then intervened with ITAC.”

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Sunday Standard June 28 – 4 July

Digital copy of Sunday Standard issue of June 28 - 4 July, 2020.