Ms Otilia Tasikani, from Highfield in Harare is contemplating suing government for failing to address the essential drugs shortages which she says has forced her to abandon her Hypertension medication owing to the exorbitant prices the medication is asking for.
By Michael Gwarisa
Zimbabwe is battling to manage the drug crisis amidst indications that most pharmacies and medical health institutions are failing to service clients citing foreign currency unavailability as the major cause for the drug catastrophe.
Speaking on the side-lines of the Community Working Group on Health (CWGH) Annual meeting, Mrs Tasikani said she has since stopped even going for Blood Pressure check-ups for fear of triggering her condition which she is failing to manage just because she cannot afford the United States dollars to purchase the medication.
“I understand people have got rights to sue government whenever they feel their health rights are being infringed on. I am on a number of medications, I take Hypertension medications, Diabetes and Antiretroviral (ARV) drugs.
“At the moment, i have stopped taking Hypertension drugs just because I cannot afford the prices. I have actually stopped going for check-ups. Imagine going for check ups to be told your blood pressure reading is 216 over 144 and it makes you even worse. When we go to buy medicines they are also demanding the US Dollar, yet we are not getting US dollars at work. As a parent I would rather but food for the house rather than medications,” said Mrs Tasikani.
She added that she was still seeking legal advise on how to pursue her case and also invited interested human rights lawyers to come to her side in her fight for basic health rights.
Even though government claims to have allocated funds towards procurement of essential drugs, the situation on the ground speaks otherwise. Most of the drugs such as Benlyn for flu were costing US$9, 4Cs US$6, Paracetamol US$1 while other drugs are selling for over US$300.
Comtrey antibiotic is now selling for US$20, linctopent now costs US$7 while the price of Cardura Oral drug, which is used in lowering high blood pressure in patients susceptible to strokes, heart attacks and kidney problems is now US$30. The price of its alternative, Exforge, is now US$25.
Quetiapine oral tablet, a prescription drug used to treat bipolar disorder, schizophrenia and depression is also costing US$300. Some private hospitals are still accepting medical aid but are forcing their patients to top up in US dollars.
Meanwhile, University of Zimbabwe Lecturer in faculty of law, Dr Elizabeth Rutsate said the state has an obligation to respect citizen’s rights and citizens have to urge citizens to raise their voices against any form of health and rights abuse by government.
“The constitutional court is actually open to any citizen, the best approach is to link up with one or two people who are in the same situation. I would advise you to link up with the Harare resident trust.
“The state in the ultimate is responsible for all this and it has the overall obligation to respect human rights. This means the state protects and monitor to see if there are any organisation which are working to infringe the rights of citizens,” said Dr Rutsate.
She added that even though government has the power to delegate certain function to other for example water reticulation among other council functions, it does not take away government’s responsibility of being the sole custodian of people’s health.
Dr Rutsate also commented on the Cholera epidemic which claimed at least 50 lives saying residents have a right to take legal action against government over such abuse of their water and sanitation rights.
“South Africa has a very active citizenry, and a lot of cases have been raised to argue on the public interest to health.
“In Zimbabwe we have not had much cases on the health services so maybe our state will be saying well because you are not speaking it means everything is fine. Under section 85 of the Zimbabwe constitution, anyone who feels anyone who feels that their constitutional rights are being violated, they are free to approach the constitutional court.”