Drugs Shortage Triggers Panic

A SHORTAGE of essential drugs used in surgery at both public and private pharmacies has sparked panic at leading hospitals in the country.

An official notice dated 4 June 2014 issued by the Roman Catholic Hospital pharmacy confirms that six crucial drugs are unavailable at both private and public suppliers, a situation anaesthetists fear might cause a medical catastrophe.

It is not clear why the suppliers are allegedly unable to stock the drugs that were listed as Neostigmine, Suxamethonium, Glycopyrolate (robinul), Dormicum (midazolam), Adrenaline (also known as epinephrine) and Atropine.

These drugs are essential during operations and treatment of cardiac arrest.

“There is a no-stock crisis of essential items. They are not available from private and public suppliers,” reads the notice, adding that no date has been set for the expected availability of the drugs.

“The pharmacy is trying everything possible to attain any amount available. Other private or State hospitals do not have sufficient stock as well,” says the notice.

Contacted for comment, a pharmacist at the Roman Catholic Hospital, Helena Enkara, who issued the notice, declined to comment, but could neither confirm nor deny the contents of the memo.

She, however, told The Namibian to quote the memo.

According to sources, the listed drugs are expected to be clear off the shelves completely by the end of June if nothing is done.

An anaesthetist who spoke to The Namibian on condition of anonymity yesterday confirmed the shortage and said that most of the listed drugs were essential during operations and without them, performing surgery would be gambling with patients’ lives.

“If you administer an anesthetic without these drugs, then you are being medically negligent because these are essential drugs for any operation,” he said.

He explained that without the drugs, all medical service providers might be forced to cease performing operations.

“These drugs are essential for reversing anaesthetics, maintaining of normal blood pressure and the heart rate, and the treatment of cardiac arrest,” he said.

Describing the situation as a crisis, the pharmacist said there was no substitute for the drugs should they run out.

Ministry of Health and Social Services permanent secretary Andrew Ndishishi and the ministry’s spokesperson, Ester Paulus, were unavailable yesterday to confirm whether State hospitals were also hit by the shortage.

An aiser to government on the supply of pharmaceutical drugs yesterday declined to comment, claiming he was not aware of the notice.

“Investigations are still ongoing so I reserve my comments until I have all the facts in front of me. We do not want to cause unnecessary panic, but I will call you once I have the answers,” he said.

A pharmacist at Nampharm, one of the leading pharmaceutical suppliers in the country, could not confirm nor deny the shortage.

“I don’t want to say anything that might place all the blame on Nampharm,” she said, after refusing to give her name.

Source : The Namibian