Sahpra set to seize & destroy Heberon drug illegally imported by SANDF from Cuba

The Auditor-General has meanwhile determined that the cost of the consignment – about R260 million – is irregular expenditure, as proper processes were not followed.

FILE: SANDF soldiers. Picture: Kayleen Morgan/Eyewitness News

CAPE TOWN - The South African Health Products Regulatory Authority (Sahpra) is poised to seize and destroy nearly a million vials of the drug Heberon that were illegally imported from Cuba by the South African Defence Force (SANDF).

The Auditor-General has meanwhile determined that the cost of the consignment – about R260 million – is irregular expenditure, as proper processes were not followed.

Sahpra has told Parliament’s Committee on Defence and Military Veterans that it informed the South African Military Health service on 6 November that it had until the end of the month to return the drugs shipment to Cuba.

Sahpra’s Boitumelo Semete told the committee that there was no response to their letter, saying that more than 970,000 vials of the drug Heberon had to be returned to Cuba.

Sahpra has now told the South African Military Health Services that it wants evidence that this was done by Tuesday’s deadline.

“We’re asking for evidence and proof that this product has been returned. If not, we will then have to confiscate the product because it was in the country unauthorised.”

The committee heard that about 40% of the vials were compromised due to a break in the cold chain needed to store them, while some batches are set to expire as early as March next year.

Mbali Tsotetsi from the office of the Auditor-General told MPs that the Defence Department’s importation of the drugs without Sahpra’s approval had resulted in a material irregularity.

“We are highlighting that this non-compliance, specifically, of bringing these drugs in without authorisation has resulted in a likely material financial loss of R260m in relation to all the drugs procured, because, without that authorisation, the department cannot administer the drugs.”