Zimbabwe Launches Investigation Into Allegations That Unlicensed Drug Importers Are Selling Antiretrovirals, Health Minister Says
Zimbabwe's Medicines Control Authority has launched investigations into allegations that unlicensed drug importers illegally are selling antiretroviral drugs in the country at unregulated locations like flea markets and hair salons, Zimbabwe Health and Child Welfare Minister David Parirenyatwa said recently, the Herald/AllAfrica.com reports (Nyangove, Herald/AllAfrica.com, 9/10). According to the AP/Google.com, some of the antiretrovirals are counterfeit, diluted or contaminated (Shaw, AP/Google.com, 9/11).
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.
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 Parirenyatwa, at least 300,000 people living with HIV/AIDS in the country are in need of antiretrovirals. About 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 (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 7/27).
According to the Herald/AllAfrica.com, the unavailability and high cost of antiretrovirals at private pharmacies -- which ranges between two million Zimbabwean dollars, or about $8,200, and 10 million Zimbabwean dollars, or about $41,000 -- has fueled the illegal market for the drugs. Zimbabwe's Ministry of Health and Child Welfare through MCA is "charged to monitor the situation and is already on the ground carrying out investigations," Parirenyatwa said. He added, "People should not go to markets to purchase these vital drugs. These fake drugs increase chances of one becoming resistant to treatment, and it becomes even more expensive for that person to remain on treatment" (Herald/AllAfrica.com, 9/10).