Malawi drug manufacturer Bisnowaty blasts donors, medical stores: ‘They are wasting money’

SADM Pharmaceuticals Group Chief Executive Officer David Bisnowaty accused the Central Medical Stores (CMS) and donor partners of favouring expensive foreign drug importation at the expense of cheap locally manufactured drugs.

A charged Bisnowaty was speaking on Monday when President Joyce Banda visited SADM factory in Kanengo, Lilongwe; saying it was sheer waste of money for CMS and donor partners that includes UNICEF, SWAP partners and Global Fund to be importing drugs that are available on the local market.

Said Bisnowaty: “Despite the fact that our drugs are licensed by the drug authority in Malawi and comply with WHO guidelines, our own Central Medical Stores, UNICEF, SWAP partners and Global Fund choose to import the very drugs we manufacture here. Does this make any sense Your Excellency?”

Bisnowaty gave an example of Cotrimoxazole, a drug that is used in conjunction with ARV’s in the treatment of HIV and AIDS patients as an example of a drug that they are able to manufacture but ‘unfortunately Global Fund had not bought even a single dose of this drug from us.’

President Banda touring SADM Pharmaceuticals factory in Kanengo. David Bisnowaty, CEO of the factory explaining to the President. Photo credit MANA.

Added the highly charged CEO, “Recently SWAP partners engaged UNICEF to import kits for distribution in Malawi hospitals. These kits come by air at great expense. Ironically, some of the products in these kits, like Paracetamol and Amoxicillin, can be manufactured by SADM and other drug manufacturers in Malawi.”

He said the importation of drugs is subject to delays of the importation delays as well as being a drain on the forex reserves of the country.

Despite having invested over K1 billion in a state-of-the-art pharmaceutical factory Bisnowaty said he has received no support from any organization including the Malawi government.

“I have all this time been knocking tirelessly on many doors in Government and development partners’ offices to support this factory. Despite my requests, we have had no support from Government and development partners.”

He revealed that this lack of support had forced SADM to scale down its workforce from 170 in 2007 to ‘a mere 40 today’ despite having a capacity to employ over 500 people at full capacity.

He said SDAM meets all international quality and safety standards as regards drug manufacturing allaying fears that maybe SADM is lacking on quality and safety challenging all those with doubts to visit the factory and ‘make informed judgments on the quality of products.’

Govt response

Minister of Health Catherine Gotani Hara in response to Bisnowaty said Government was working on a mechanism to procure this perennial drug shortage that was brought upon by the country due to donor pull out during the previous administration.

She was quick however; to assure SDAM and other four local drug manufactures that Government will see to it that local manufacturers are supported.

“Let’s find a way to support local industries. The local manufacturers meet international standards. Let’s not underrate them.”

Gotani Hara also revealed that this is more necessary now as the CMS is only ‘operating at 5 ercent drug stock levels’ which in reality means the CMS has no drugs.

She said if the local drug manufacturers are supported, the drug shortages being experienced in the country would be alleviated.

Hara also paid tribute to President Joyce Banda for restoring and repairing relations with donor partners, a situation which she said ‘averted a disaster’ as the drug shortages would have been catastrophic.

She assured the State President and the nation at large that her main focus in the Ministry of Health would be to make sure all hospitals and clinics countrywide are fully stocked with medicines and drugs.

SADM Pharmaceuticals factory warehouse full of essential drugs when most hospitals have no drugs as they wait for drugs bought

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