GOVERNMENT has put plans of establishing NatPharm owned retail pharmacies on hold following indications that government has decided to prioritise public health institutions, a Cabinet Minister revealed on Wednesday.
By Kudakwashe Pembere
Briefing a Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Health today, Health and Child Care Minister, Dr Obadiah Moyo said it wqas uncalled for to pursue the NatPharm deal.
“Then you said are you going to be filling your NatPharm pharmacies. We are not even thinking of NatPharm Pharmacies. We will be very silly to be even thinking of that.
“We want to fill up all the hospitals first and after we have a surplus in the hospitals, when we see no orders coming through to Natpharm, then we can maybe think of competition. I said maybe we will think of competing against retailers. You see we don’t want to go into that yet,” he said.
Health and Child Care Minister Dr Obadiah Moyo last year proposed these pharmacies be set up to counter the exorbitant three tier pricing by private pharmacies.
This decision was seen was viewed as hypocritical by parliamentarians who felt on top of the agenda was to fill up the empty hospital pharmacies. He explained how they came about the unpopular idea.
“Don’t forget the Natpharm pharmacy issue was as a result of competition which was there from the retailers which were charging in forex. So it was to curtail that. It is a phase which has calmed.
“ Some of the people were going to buy in forex but has been overtaken by events. The events have changed. So we don’t even want to continue talking about that,” Minister Moyo said.
The Minister also said should hospitals be adequately stocked with medicines, they might give the nod for NatPharm to sell to private pharmacies.
“But in future, whilst we have all our pharmacies in our hospitals full of products and Natpharm itself if they have an excess of products, then we shall allow them to be able to number one, to be able to sell to the retail pharmacies.
“And the moment we stopped that. They used to that. We stopped them asking them how they can be selling to the retailers and the retailers are the ones ending up selling in forex. You bought this in RTGS$, give retailers who end up selling in US$. So let’s stop it. So they stopped it,” Dr Moyo said.
In February, Hurungwe Central member of National Assembly Dought Ndiweni during a NatPharm tour said the organisation should concentrate on satisfying the demand for medicines in public institutions before venturing into the retail sector.
“Let us be practical about this issue,” he said. “Stock up the Government pharmacies first before introducing your own pharmacies. Going ahead with such an idea will further push away access to medicines by the poor.”
Other legislators said NatPharm wanted to starve public health institutions of drugs in favour of private pharmacies.
“Why can’t we first of all deliver the medicines to the hospitals and then look at other pharmacies?” said Chimanimani West legislator Ms Lynette Karenyi. “People are not comfortable with this arrangement. We hear this from the people, the nurses and the doctors.
“Let’s do what people want and the medicines will get to everybody.”
Nkayi South legislator Cde Stars Mathe said clinics in her constituency did not have adequate medicines.
“How will people from a clinic in Nkayi access these pharmacies?” said Cde Mathe. “Why not just adequately stock all clinics and hospitals in line with your mandate?”