“We Cant Be A Country Of Merchants, We Need To Start Manufacturing Own Medicines” Prof Murwira

ZIMBABWE should move from being the sole importer and consumer of imported medicines if it is to achieve Universal Health Coverage (UHC) for all, acting Health and Child Care Minister, Professor Amon Murwira has said.

By Michael Gwarisa

Zimbabwe currently imports about 90 percent of its drugs and medical equipment with majority of the medications coming through from development partners and donors such as  UNDP, UNICEF, USAID, UNFPA and others. In 2019, drugs and medical commodities that passed through NatPharm from development partners  was worth over US$130 million.

Officiating at the Medicines Control Authority of Zimbabwe (MCAZ) Annual General Meeting in the capital recently, Prof Murwira said  the country’s current medical and drug import bill was humongous and only local production could reduce this burden on the economy.

The backbone of every nation is manufacturing. A nation must be able to make its own things. A nation must be able to extract minerals, smelt iron, to farm and a nation must be able to manufacture its own medicines. As the new dispensation, we now want to make our own things, we have had enough of buying.

“We cannot be a country of merchants yet we boast of having one of the highest literacy rates. We now have a scenario whereby Pharmacy graduates when they leave university, the first place they want to go into is the retail business. No one wants to manufacture drugs. Tell me, if we all become merchants, who will manufacture drugs for our country. We are going to move this country forward but it needs a complete mind shift,” said Prof Murwira.

He added that it was time to start asking the hard questions and ensure local pharmaceutical companies and government come up with workable solutions towards reversing the current status-quo. 

“We need to take our destiny and ensure the future for our people is bright. Destiny and visions are not fulfilled on the microphone or in reciting good speeches but in action. We must take responsibility for our acti0ns. Those who do not have capacity to manufacture drugs should pave way for those who can do the job. We want to do away with monopolies and ensure that everyone who has capacity and the know-how to manufacture drugs locally is given room to do so.

“The question is are we closing an industry in Zimbabwe or are we supporting an industry elsewhere? Once we know how our nation functions, then we never underestimate our own capabilities. Zimbabwe’s vision is become an upper middle income economy reflecting international best practices. As we pursue this vision, the country should move away from being a net consumer of externally manufactured medicines and make its own locally manufactured drugs. Currently the country imports around US$1 Billion worth of medicines. Our task is to enable the capability to reduce the import bill.”

MCAZ Director General, Gugu Mahlangu said they intend to provide guidance to local manufacturers of medicines to ensure they adhere to world-class standards.

“Going into the future, we want to expand our regulatory scope to other areas such as blood and blood components, medical devices import/export, AIPs, Feed and Additives. We want to continue providing fit-for purpose risk based guidance to local manufactures the Quality Assurance Plan (QAP), Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP) Road Maps.

“We also intend to actively participate in the establishment of the African Medicines Agency as well to ensure greater use of technology on the sector as a whole,” said Mahlangu.

Meanwhile, she also said the COVID-19 dealt the authority a major blow as the authority was faced by a decrease in revenue and incurred additional costs to support staff working from home, COVID-19 testing and counseling.

“The COVID-19 led to a scaling down of activities in the pharmaceutical sector as well as at MCAZ. Industry faced with shutdowns or working with lean staff. The Authority faced a decrease in revenue and additional costs to support the staff working from home, COVID-19 testing and counseling e.t.c. The exchange rate risk was high alsoth0ugh it stabilized towards the end of the year.”






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