Namibia: Customs Still Hold Onto ARVs


THE fate of the antiretroviral drugs (ARVs) confiscated by customs in September last year is still unknown while Namibians living positively with HIV have to take substitute medicines.

Information attached to Walvis Bay Port police case CR01/10/2018 shows 1 300 cartons of ARVs worth N$7 474 658 were confiscated by customs when the consignment from China arrived on 6 September 2018 – nine days after the import permit expired on 29 August.

Customs are still holding onto the consignment, amid a legal tussle between the ministries of finance and health.

The Namibian learnt from reliable sources that the Ministry of Finance reported a case about the contravention of the Medicines Act of 2003, in which it allegedly accused the health ministry of granting a tender to someone to import medicines without a permit. The case was dropped because there was possibly a permit. The only reason why customs held the consignment back was that it arrived late.

The delay was blamed on possible weather disruptions experienced by vessels sailing to Namibia.

This newspaper understands, however, that the tender was given to the company by the health ministry, and allegedly signed off by the permanent secretary. The Namibian could not establish the name of the company yesterday.

Katutura Intermediate Hospital superintendent Fady Ashmawy assured the public on Tuesday that medication being used as a substitute was equally effective.

Ashmawy said in case of shortages, “and that there is a shortage of a type of medication and there is no alternative, as a last resort, we may give an adult the paediatric formulation which is equally effective as the adult formulation, except for the taste and maybe the colour”.

He gave an example of an adult form as where each tablet contains 600 mg of the active ingredients. In a case where no other alternative exists single or in combination, they choose to give the paediatric formulation.

“If this paediatric formulation contains 200 mg of the active substance/unit, we shall give the adult the same 600 mg, but in paediatric form, calculating that the adult dose is three times the paediatric dose (200mg x 3). And this is a rare situation,” added Ashmawy. He explained that they work in consultation with other state hospitals, clinics and health centres in case of identified shortages, and it is the practice between hospitals to help each other with medication and other items to solve any deficiency on time. The Central Medical Stores’ director of pharmaceutical supply chain under the health ministry, Ryno Badenhorst, said they suffer shortages because some health facilities order more than they need.

He added that they do this to avoid running out of drugs, and sometimes to dispense some of the medicines before they expire.

Badenhorst said because of those large orders, some hospitals get less medicines than they need, but that is now being rectified with their new information technology system which allows each hospital to monitor its stock, and identify shortages before they become too critical.

He noted that in the case of TB drugs, for instance, they had shortages because the factory had problems sourcing the ingredients needed for their manufacture.

The finance ministry’s customs commissioner, Geritt Eiman, and the health ministry’s spokesperson, Manga Libita, could not be reached for comment by the time of going to print.

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Publish date : 2019-03-18 14:52:45

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