ZIMBABWE’S biggest pharmaceutical firm, Pharmaceutical and Chemical Distributors (PCD) has come to the aid of Zimbabweans bearing the brunt of paying medicines in United States Dollars through selling their supplies in local currencies such as RTGS and Bond notes.
By Kudakwashe Pembere
Effective yesterday, the company issued a statement noting how the ailing were forced to buy medication with a currency they are struggling to get their hands on.
Briefing the Health and Childcare Minister Obadiah Moyo before touring their warehouse, the company’s chief executive officer Mr Prashant Shah admitted that in as much as they charged US dollars they were aware of the burden imposed on the patient. Going back to the company’s core value of empathy, the company considered the plight of Zimbabweans thus tweaking the payment terms.
“What you have alluded to is correct. Wholesalers have been charging USD to retail pharmacies. That was to make sure the supply chain remains open. The industry have close to $27 million in payments for our supplies. The supply line is squeezed, has been cut because the manufacturers are now requesting payments in advance to manufacture drugs for Zimbabwe.
“That is the main reason why we were looking to charge medicines in US$ so that we could get the supply lines open,” he explained.
He added they have come up with flexible However, in cognizant to the difficulties, the public is facing in terms of drug availability, the pricing thereon at the pharmacies is not crazy, its horrendous.
“We are fully aware of the pricing. As PCD we have taken the initiative today that we will sell in RTGS. (You are now going to sell in RTGS?)We have notified our customers today in fact, that we are accepting RTGS,” he said. “As PCD we will sell all the stock that we have here to the pharmacies in RTGS. We will not be demanding USD or any other foreign currency from them. We hope the pharmacies will also pass that benefit to the patient with the currency that is available to the patient at affordable pricing.”
Mr Shah pleaded with Government to expedite the release of foreign currency to pharmaceutical distributors and wholesalers.
“We hope from the Ministry of Finance as well as the Ministry of Health to make foreign currency available so that we can keep this stock to this level within the next couple of weeks otherwise apart from affordability, availability, we would like you to be able to support us in our endeavors when we make applications to the Bank. For foreign currency to the industry in particular,” he said.
He also said their prices will be reasonable. “What has happened is that our costs have also gone up, like maintenance costs of our Air Cons have a multiplier effect. So to recover that we have added a bit but we are not charging exorbitant prices,” Mr Shah said.
In a statement already circulating on social media, Mr Shah said their customers can pay using local currency.
“Customers can pay for all products available at PCD using any legal tender including RTGS, mobile money, cash (bond notes and coins) and any other currencies in the multi-currency basket at the official exchange rates 2. Orders will be processed upon confirmation of receipt of funds by our accounts department 3. Customers in Harare and Bulawayo are advised to visit their respective branches for order collection only after confirmation of receipt of funds,” he said.
Expressing gratitude on PCD answering Government’s call to stop charging medicines in USD, Minister Moyo said he hoped others would follow the path set by PCD.
“You stopped charging in USD that is very good, thank you for that. We would like to really thank you for taking heed of our call to look after the poor who cannot even afford to get USD to go to the retailers. So I trust that other wholesalers will follow suit, and be able to charge using RTGS, local currency and avoid the scarce USD,” he said adding, “That is what our call remains Yes USD might be legal tender in the currency basket, but it’s not available. So we are also going to ensure that the committee which has set up for the allocation of foreign currency, will be looking at companies which are not selling in USD to the patients, to be allocated accordingly.”
Minister Moyo also asked for a list of pharmacies getting supplies from PCD to keep track of their pricing models.
“We would also want the list of those retailers that buy from you since we now expect them to be selling in RTGS, accept medical aid cards,” he said.
Pharmaceutical Society of Zimbabwe which represents all retailers, and wholesalers said retailers should take the cue from PCD
“As has been stated in earlier pronouncements, retail pharmacies are price takers and sell according to how the source of products is charging and hence they are expected to take a cue from their suppliers. We should definitely see a return to acceptance of all modes of payment as patients access their products through these retailers.
As a Society, our hope is that government remains committed to address the issue of low forex allocations to the industry which had caused the supply chain disruptions,” PSZ president Portipher Mwendera said.