The National Pharmaceuticals Company (NatPharm) will soon establish retail pharmacies that will dispense drugs at affordable prices and accept forms of payment accessible to the majority as Government moves in to rescue the situation.
This follows a continued defiance, by most private pharmacies, of a Government directive to reduce prices of medicines and shun rating them to either the United States dollar or its parallel market equivalent in RTGS and Bond notes.
In an interview Health and Child Care Minister Dr Obadiah Moyo said Government was moving in to ensure patients have access to affordable drugs.
He said the identification of shops to house the Government pharmacies had begun.
“We are busy gathering the medicines and also identifying the places to put up the pharmacies.
“We have instructed Natpharm to commence identification of the buildings where the pharmacies will be. We want it done as soon as possible, the sooner the better,” said Minister Moyo.
A survey by The Sunday Mail in most pharmacies in Harare last week showed that medicines are being sold at ‘reasonable’ prices in United States dollars, but are pegged as high as six-fold to the greenback when sold in Bond notes or RTGS.
Pain killers and antibiotics such as amoxicillin are pegged at US$1 and US$2 respectively, while their prices in local currency are an average $6 and $11,50.
Addressing legislators in the National Assembly last week, the minister said the country was awaiting delivery of medication worth $25 million from India.
“…We are waiting for delivery of medications worth $25 million. Meanwhile, we have some medicines which have been delivered, but are not included in this $25 million.
“The Ministry of Health and Child Care has laid down policies. We have a plan of getting drugs from NatPharm and therefore we want to empower NatPharm in such a way that they can be able to buy any drugs they want.
“The bulk of our medicines come from India, which is about 80 percent of our medical supplies. As a result, we are saying, through NatPharm, we want to have a representative based in India so that we can buy medication from there at an affordable price.
“So far we have made arrangements to create a bigger fund in order to purchase these medications,” said Minister Moyo.
Pharmaceutical Association of Zimbabwe president Mr Portifa Mwendera said the pricing of medicines by pharmacies was dependent on the pricing models from the suppliers.
“Our biggest drug manufacturer in Zimbabwe is Varichem and at the moment they are asking for payment in US dollars,” he said.
“If you get a product which is in RTGS or bond notes, the prices have gone up significantly compared to what existed say last October.
“Pharmacies are using the same pricing they are charged by the wholesaler or the manufacturer.
“The rates are not pre-determined, it depends on what currency and what price the manufacturers sells the medication to us,” he said.
NatPharm has been importing medication in bulk and dispensing it to local pharmacies at local currency prices.