Govt pleads with pharmacies to stop selling drugs in US dollars

HARARE - Health and Child Care minister Obadiah Moyo yesterday made an impassioned plea to pharmacies to stop selling drugs in US dollars but charge in local currency.

Moyo told senators that he was consulting Finance minister Mthuli Ncube and Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Ziyambi Ziyambi on the best way to help patients.

“We are appealing to the pharmacies not to sell their drugs in United States dollars.

“We are currently negotiating with minister of Finance and minister of Justice to see what we can do. We are worried as government, this must not be allowed because our people are suffering.

“As government, we want to make sure that we stop this.”

After Moyo’s entreaty, various senators grilled him and demanded that government act urgently on the matter.

This comes as Zimbabwe’s health delivery system is battling myriad problems, primarily as a result of the worsening economic climate.

Zimbabwe needs about $400 million per year to meet its full drug requirements for both public hospitals and the rest of the health services sector.

But due to the country’s worsening foreign currency shortages, Zimbabwe has been battling to have normal stocks of essential medicines.

In the past, major referral hospitals had to suspend many critical services as a result of collapsing infrastructure and the shortage of drugs, including painkillers.

At the peak of its economy, Zimbabwe did not import most of its drugs due to the then healthy state of its pharmaceutical industry, which was dominated by CAPS
Holdings.

However, CAPS has been teetering on the brink of collapse for most of the past five years, when it started experiencing severe financial problems.

The struggling drug manufacturer accounted for 75 percent of the local healthcare products market — and was involved in the manufacture, wholesale, distribution and retail of pharmaceutical, consumer and veterinary products.

Today, the company is only operating one of its four plants in the capital Harare, as a result of a lack of funding — leaving the country’s health institutions with no option but to procure medicines, including intravenous drip water, from outside the country.

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