Unlicensed Drug Importers Selling Antiretrovirals in Zimbabwe, Medicines Control Authority Says
Unlicensed drug importers illegally are selling antiretroviral drugs in Zimbabwe at unregulated locations like flea markets and hair salons, the country's Medicines Control Authority said recently, Zimbabwe's Financial Gazette reports.
Some health experts warn that the nonprescription antiretrovirals could result in the development of widespread drug resistance. According to some health professionals, the circulation of illegal medication is a reflection of the collapse of the government's health care infrastructure, as well as severe deficiencies in controlling the drugs' manufacture and importation (Financial Gazette, 7/26).
The country's efforts to increase access to antiretrovirals have been delayed by a shortage of foreign currency, which has increased poverty levels and raised inflation by 3,700%. More than 3,000 people die of AIDS-related illnesses weekly in the country, and 70% of hospital admissions in Zimbabwe are HIV/AIDS-related. According to Zimbabwe Health and Child Welfare Minister David Parirenyatwa, at least 300,000 people living with HIV/AIDS in the country are in need of antiretrovirals (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 6/11). According to the Gazette, 62,000 HIV-positive people are on the government's treatment program, but the figure is expected to double by the end of the year.
Selling antiretrovirals on the black market is a "dangerous practice because the medicines may have been subjected to inappropriate and hazardous storage conditions," Parirenyatwa said, adding, "Such medicines may be counterfeited, adulterated and contaminated, thus rendering them ineffective and sometimes dangerous." The health ministry is attempting to curb the illegal sale of antiretrovirals, and the Southern Africa HIV and AIDS Information Dissemination Service has been asked to evaluate the situation, Parirenyatwa said (Financial Gazette, 7/26).