Zimbabwe’s government said Friday that medical patients are not receiving expired medications, in a statement that counters claims from the country’s striking doctors and pharmacists who say otherwise.
The Zimbabwe Hospital Doctors Association (ZHDA), addressing a range of issues facing the country’s medical sector, said it saw the expired medications at the National Pharmacy in Harare.
“When we visited NatPharm, we did not see the protective clothing and laboratory machines we requested,” the ZHDA said in its statement. “Instead we noted that some of the medication which was being peddled as stocks was beyond expiry date, and the said consignment has donor drugs which should not be passed for bought drugs to the taxpayer.”
Their complaint against health minister Obadiah Moyo follows word from the Pharmaceutical Society of Zimbabwe (PSZ) confirming that Harare pharmacies were receiving drugs with short shelf life but they are likely to be used in the near term nonetheless. Area pharmacies have complained that NatPharm has become a clearinghouse for medications donated by NGOs that results in expired drugs.
The government response comes amid heightened social media attention over the issue. While there are certainly expired drugs, officials said, they are not used for patients and subject to a process for disposal that may take up to nine months. That’s the reason why expired drugs are still in storage.
“Expired medication cannot be disposed of without a formal process that involves instituting a Board of Survey to scrutinize and verify the medicines targeted for destruction,” said Zimbabwe’s information minister. “The expired medicine is only destroyed after Treasury has authorized such destruction through the issuance of a Certificate of Destruction.”
The issue comes as Zimbabwe suspended doctors who went on strike at the beginning of December and demanded they must return to work, amid an ongoing economic and currency crisis. The ZHDA condemned the government’s claim that the doctors who initiated the strike for better pay and working conditions – now supported by senior colleagues and other medical professionals – are “students” beholden to government funding.
“We are disappointed that the minister and his team continue to play politics with people’s lives instead of addressing the situation at hand,” the ZHDA said.