Soaring drug prices slash life expectancy: Doctors

Source: Soaring drug prices slash life expectancy: Doctors – DailyNews Live

STAFF WRITER      26 October 2017

HARARE – The high-profile price hikes of medication have raised the ire of
rights doctors.

Evans Spanton, the secretary-general of the Zimbabwe Association of
Doctors for Human Rights, said a lot of Zimbabweans are on chronic
medication and this development will significantly reduce quality of life
and life expectancy in general, as well as infringe on the basic right to
health which all Zimbabweans are entitled to in the Constitution’s
expansive Bill of Rights.

“Price increases in the cost of medication which has seen a 70 percent
rise in the markets is highly regrettable given that Zimbabwe remains
burdened by the HIV/Aids pandemic and NCDs (Non communicable Diseases)
which are on the rise,” Spanton said.

Whilst the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) insists that they are providing
forex to pharmaceutical companies, evidence gathered from the
Pharmaceutical Association of Zimbabwe and a general market survey has
proven otherwise, Spanton said.

RBZ governor John Mangudya claimed yesterday that  the central bank was
allocating $4 million to pharmacies weekly to import drugs.

He described the 70 percent hike as “abuse of consumers and bad business

Spanton said: “This brings into question government’s commitment to
ensuring the right to health for its citizens. Priority for the health
sector is definitely lacking. This is further reflected by the consistent
year-on-year paltry allocation to the Health ministry which falls short of
the 15 percent stipulated by the Abuja agreement.”

Fifteen years after the government pledged in the Abuja Declaration to
allocate at least 15 percent of its annual budget to healthcare by 2015,
it is dismally failing to meet this goal.

“The lack of political will continues to dog the healthcare sector in
Zimbabwe,” Spanton said.

“It is our hope that the new Finance minister … will prioritise health
in his upcoming budget and avoid unnecessary deaths …”

Spaton said despite the fact that the 8th Parliament has four or more
qualified medical doctors, there has not been much lobbying for increase
in allocation to the health budget, resulting in the country continuing to
be ravaged by primitive diseases such as typhoid and cholera.

“Whilst parliamentarians are busy arguing about lining their fat pockets,
poverty stricken civilians are being killed by typhoid in Mbare and other
high density suburbs,” Spanton said.

“This is the kind of attitude which we hope the next elections will
address. As ZADHR we urge all medical practitioners and allied health
services providers, as well as patients to go and register to vote and
elect representatives who will front our agenda for equitable health and
right to access for all Zimbabweans.”

He said it was common sense that Zimbabwe needs to manufacture its drugs

“This can be done by capitalising manufacturing plants such as CAPS
Holdings, which at its peak exported drugs to the whole of southern Africa
and beyond, earning us the much needed foreign currency, as well as
providing medication to Zimbabweans at a reasonable cost,” he said.

Government assumed control of the stuttering drug-maker in August last
year after buying out ex-major shareholder Frederick Mtandah.

This was after CAPS’ faced a critical funding shortfall, with its property
escaping a public auction aimed at amortising a $4 million loan owed to
two major banks – CBZ Bank and FBC Bank.

Government has since snapped up CAPS’ debts through the Zimbabwe Asset
Management Corporation, a central bank unit setup to assume distressed
companies’ debts to banks.

CAPS has since been delisted from the Zimbabwe Stock Exchange (ZSE).

CAPS is only operating one out of its four plants in the capital, Harare,
as a result of lack of funding from new shareholders, government, leaving
the country’s health institutions and donors with no option but to procure
medicines, including intravenous drip water, outside the country.

“In the short term, a waiver on duty for importation of critical medicines
such as ARVs, anti-hypertensive, chemotherapy, theatre injectable to
mention just a few would be advisable to avert this disaster,” Spanton

“The high cost of our import tax on raw materials, makes it cheaper for
instance to import paracetamol as a finished product from India, as
compared to getting raw materials for local production, which would also
create jobs. We hope responsible authorities take time to look into these
issues and avoid unnecessary loss of lives.”