CMS Trust buying drugs​, Malawi President meets health expert: Updated

The Central Medical Stores (CMS) Trust has announced that it has started procuring medication to restock government health facilities as President Joyce Banda met health experts on the matter.

CMS Trust spokesman Herbert Chandilanga said on Monday that the CMST had started purchasing medication, months after government hospitals and clinics run out of drugs, leading to deaths caused by otherwise treatable diseases.

“We have started restocking and soon our hospitals will have drugs,” he told the press.

Meanwhile, President Banda on Monday met health officials to discuss medication shortfalls and find solutions to the matter.

President Banda recently toured SADM Pharmaceuticals factory in Kanengo. Speaking with David Bisnowaty, CEO of the factory

President Banda recently toured SADM Pharmaceuticals factory in Kanengo. Speaking with David Bisnowaty, CEO of the factory

Several hospitals and clinics ran without medicatiopn, sending back patients to buy from vendors.

A hospital official at Chiradzulu Hospital, where it was hard hit by the shortage, bemoaned that a lot of lives were lost as government had slashed their budget from K8 million to about K6 million.

“Our stock ended last month and we sent patients to buy medication from vendors. For example, an average person requires four drips of water for treatment, which are expensive and most people are failing to afford,” he said in a live interview with the local independent radio, Zodiac Broadcasting Station (ZBS).

In Monday’s meeting with President Banda at Kamuzu Palace in Lilongwe, medical doctors  blamed the drug crisis in Malawi on inadequate funding, long and bureaucratic procurement processes, the centralised health system and use of intermediaries to buy drugs.

Dr Ronald Mataya of the University of Malawi’s College of Medicine described the country’s situation as a shame in letting people die due to lack of basic drugs. He said the drug budget should be reviewed and matched with the actual cost of treatment if the country is to do away with persistent drug shortages.

Mataya also said government should consider decentralising the health system to allow more ownership and easy supervision of the country’s public medical facilities.

“A centralised system is the most inefficient system of running a health system. We are told that it takes two years to procure drugs, I think that is total negligence,” he said.

According to published reports, President Banda last month cancelled duly processed contracts to buy cholera, malaria and diabetes emergency medicines worth $2 259 242 (around K890. 7 million)

Government reportedly directed CMST to award contracts to two suppliers—Sadm Pharmaceuticals Limited and Victoria Pharmaceuticals.

Sadm Pharmaceuticals Limited is owned by Lilongwe-based business mogul David Bisnowaty whereas Victoria Pharmaceuticals is owned by Farook Gani, the Blantyre-based tycoon who also runs Victoria Hotel.

CMS—the public drug management agency—was turned into a trust last year as part of its institutional repositioning.

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