While government has faced serious backlash from nurses and the public for the lack of certain critical drugs, an undisclosed stock of drugs was destroyed at the National Tubercolosis (TB) Hospital.
On Tuesday, the Ministry of Health was said to have disposed of an undisclosed amount of medication suspected to have expired. The medication was said to have been collected from the Mavuso Quarantine Facility, through the use of an ambulance.
According to impeccable sources, the medication was loaded into the ambulance in the presence of a senior official from the TB Hospital.
The official was said to have added more stock of medication from the TB Hospital to that which was destroyed in an incinerator. The said official supposedly led the destroying of the medication.
In light of this, the Swaziland Democratic Nurses Union (SWADNU) said it was reckless of government to have stock in abundance which in turn expired.
President of the nurses’ union Bheki Mamba said the expiry of medication required heads to roll as there was lack of accountability from some of the people responsible for the procurement.
The nurses’ union leader said the biggest challenge was the management as this depicted inefficiency in the management of drugs. He said this must be accounted for as it did not make sense as the citizenry was offered prescription letters instead of drugs in hospitals, such that they (nurses) ended up approaching the courts about it.
He said: “The medication disposed could be worth millions basing it on the value of what happened in the past when it was disposed of in one of the incinerators in the country’s largest companies.” Worth noting is that the shortage of medication is well-documented in the country as on different occasions nurses would engage in industrial action expressing frustration over same.
However, to this allegation, the Director of Health Services, Dr Vusi Magagula, said medication that was disposed of was expired drugs. He said there were a number of reasons why this happened.
Among the reasons, Dr Magagula said it was because some medication was ordered due to the demand at the time, only to find that it later subsided while their shelf life shortened.
“We project how much medication we may need and then it depends on whether people would get sick to that number projected. Also, there are drugs that are donated to the country, and when they expire, there is nothing you can do with them.”
He said medication that was likely to expire included that for treating TB and ailments that had a variety of combinations when being treated. Dr Magagula said due to the variety of the combination, it was likely at times that there were extra drugs which may then expire.
When asked if antiretroviral drugs were part of the list of expired drugs, he said: “It is likely, but what you should know is that those are highly monitored as most were donated to the country.”
He said those that were bought by government were also monitored and it did happen that some would expire, but it was a very rare occurrence.
“I can’t say it does not happen as that would be a lie; it happens but at a low scale.”
Making an example, Dr Magagula said, government had to destroy medication for H1N1, which was ordered in anticipation that the country could have infections of the virus.
According to the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in 2009, a novel influenza A (H1N1) virus emerged. It was detected first in the United States and the virus contained a unique combination of influenza genes not previously identified in animals or people. Additionally, CDC estimated that between 151 700 and 575 400 people worldwide died from an (H1N1) pdm09 virus infection during the first year the virus circulated. However, there were no infections locally and government had to destroy that medication. He said should it have happened that the medication was not ordered and the H1N1 made it into the country, it would have been disastrous. It was for this reason, he said, that medication had to be ordered and readily available for diseases.
He said this was something known but needed to be monitored to make sure that it was not a substantial amount that expired. Dr Magagula said it was better when the medication that expired was within acceptable limits. When the director of health services was questioned on how much was the loss incurred by the ministry due to the expiration of medication, he said: “I don’t want to answer that as it may give a distorted account. It might come across that there is a shortage of medication in the country because it expires and is disposed of.”
He admitted that where there was suspicion of negligence, the ministry investigated the issue and subsequent action was taken after the outcome. When ordering the medication, he said, it was a process that entailed a number of things, which included that the shelf life should exceed two years.
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