Paidamoyo Chipunza Senior Health ReporterStakeholders in the pharmaceutical industry yesterday said there was need for the country to support local pharmaceutical manufacturers to curb malpractices facing the sector.
In separate interviews with The Herald yesterday following revelations that there were some cartels and business persons in charge of the industry, resulting in prevalence of price distortions on the market, different stakeholders concurred that local production of medicines could be the panacea to the current pricing madness experienced in the sector.
Medicines Control Authority of Zimbabwe (MCAZ) spokesperson Mr Richard Rukwata said there was no reason why the country was importing basic products such as IV fluids and painkillers, when the same could be manufactured locally.
He said the current situation where the bulk of pharmaceutical products are imported brings a lot of complexities to the cost of products with each different level of distribution.
“There is need to prioritise production of medicines that can be manufactured locally to mitigate some of the challenges facing the pharmaceutical industry at the moment,” said Mr Rukwata.
He said MCAZ was in the process of assisting local manufactures to develop systems that meet internationally recognised standards so that they can also compete on the international market with manufacturers from other countries.
He revealed that previously, local manufacturers used to supply around 60 percent of the country’s medicines.
Commenting on the issue of cartels, Mr Rukwata concurred that there were some agents with exclusive dealership to products from certain manufacturers but was quick to point out that there were also some products with alternatives provided by other manufacturers.
He, however, admitted that some products had little competition but put the blame on some manufacturers for not doing enough homework on other fast moving products to provide the much needed competition.
He said current regulatory processes, which some sections have labelled as taxing and contributing to the pricing of end products, were necessary and standard across the pharmaceutical industry elsewhere.
Pharmaceutical Wholesalers of Zimbabwe president Mr Kuda Chapfika also echoed the idea of supporting local industry but emphasised on the need to ensure that they meet international standards.
Although he dismissed cartels as non-existent in the pharmaceutical sector, Mr Chapfika defended exclusive dealership arrangements as professional relationships entered into between manufacturers and distributors.
“The issue of dealership also emanates from the fact that manufacturers would like to deal with one or two distributors in each country, as a way of making sure the product can be traced and that ultimately the patient can be protected. This practice of selected distributors is not unique to Zimbabwe, as it’s also common practice in the rest of the African pharmaceutical markets, as well as in European markets,” said Mr Chapfika. He said this is done to ensure that the quality of products is traceable and not compromised along the distribution chain. He added that pricing of products in the current set-up was determined by total costs a wholesaler incurs to bring a product on the market plus a mark-up not exceeding 40 percent.
Consumer Council of Zimbabwe executive director Ms Rosemary Siyachitema expressed concern on high prices of all products in the country, medicines included.
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