Health Minister meets suppliers to tackle drug shortages

Shortages of some drugs have affected both public and private health facilities.

FILE: Aaron Motsoaledi.

CAPE TOWN - Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi has met with executives from a number of pharmaceutical companies and suppliers to try and deal with a shortage of some drugs in the country.

The department explained there has been a shortage of some medical supplies due to a lack of active pharmaceutical ingredients globally.

It adds the shortages have affected both public and private health facilities.

The ministry's Joe Maila said, "We have experienced a number of problems in terms of supply of medication, but mainly due to a lack of active pharmaceutical ingredients in the country. And it's not exclusive to South Africa; it's a global phenomenon."

Motsoaledi said last month that drug shortages in South Africa were not the result of an uncaring or incompetent government, but rather the pharmaceutical companies that supply medicines.

He added that the global shortages were the result of profit-run pharmaceutical companies.

This follows a series of media reports in May which claimed patients in KwaZulu-Natal were being turned away from clinics because of widespread shortages.

Motsoaledi said the shortage of certain drugs in the country had led to fierce attacks on government despite it being unable to control the distribution of the drugs.

"It is very easy to fiercely attack government for a non-caring attitude, incompetence, cadre deployment and corruption, as claimed in one statement by the Treatment Action Campaign."

He said his department had been quick to investigate claims of a shortage of antiretroviral (ARVs), but says the country has an adequate supply.

At the same time, Doctors Without Borders has said the main reason for drug shortages in South Africa was due to management and logistical challenges between the pharmaceutical companies and clinics.