SA’s Drug Problems Affect Nam

PROBLEMS with drug suppliers in South Africa have affected private medical practitioners in Namibia, where some doctors had to cancel operations.

NamPharm and Geko supply medical practices in Namibia, but some doctors said problems with the main supplier in South Africa caused a shortage of approximately nine drugs.

Although NamPharm and Geko were not available for comment yesterday, the managing director of Ongwediva MediPark, Tshali Iithete, told The Namibian that the South African supplier cutting down on drugs exports had caused panic.

Some of the drugs listed as being in short supply in a letter from the Roman Catholic Hospital’s pharmacy to various doctors earlier this month are anaesthetic drugs, such as Neostigmine, Suxamethonium, Glycopyrolate (robinul), Dormicum (midazolam), adrenaline (also known as epinephrine) and Atropine.

“Yes, we were worried about the shortage of seven to nine drugs that are used before and after surgery. This was because our main suppliers NamPharm and Geko Suppliers, which are supplying most of the private hospitals and pharmacies in Namibia, had problems with the main supplier in South Africa,” Iithete said yesterday.

A Windhoek-based anaesthetist who preferred anonymity told The Namibian that he was forced to cancel four operations within a week during the shortage.

“I had to cancel these operations because, without these drugs, we could not reverse the anaesthetics on a patient after an operation, unless we allow them to recover in the Intensive Care Unit which is not always aisable,” he said.

Another doctor, who works for a public and a private hospital, also confirmed that he had to perform an operation last week at the Ongwediva MediPark without the drug Glycopyrolate (robinul). He, however, said he was able to use a substitute drug during the operation.

Although he confirmed the shortage of this drug, the doctor claimed that the drug was only unavailable at the Ongwediva MediPark and that the Roman Catholic Hospital had all the drugs in stock, despite the note confirming that the drugs had been out of stock.

Staff at the Roman Catholic Hospital yesterday declined to comment on whether the drugs were still out of stock or were now available. A pharmacist at one of the state hospitals, who also spoke on condition of anonymity, denied that there was a short supply of essential drugs, claiming that those that were out of stock have now been provided.

“We don’t have any drugs that are out of stock at the moment. We have everything we need,” she said. Some doctors alleged that some antiretroviral drugs were in short supply. The doctors told The Namibian that they had to prescribe their adult patients children’s antiretroviral drugs, which they had to give in double doses.

The doctors accused the Ministry of Health and Social Services of holding back on antiretroviral drugs, and that their pleas to the ministry’s permanent secretary Andrew Ndishishi were not heeded.

The Namibian understands that health minister Richard Kamwi had to hold an urgent meeting with the doctors early this week to address the situation.

When asked to comment, Kamwi said he was in a meeting and could not talk.

He, however, referred The Namibian to Ester Paulus, the ministry’s spokesperson. Questions emailed to Paulus early this week had not been answered by yesterday.

Source : The Namibian