ZIMBABWE will now resume local manufacturing of Antiretrovirals (ARVs) and other drugs using local pharmaceutical companies as the country has been losing millions of foreign currency by procuring them from India and China through middlemen at a high cost.
The move will capacitate local manufactures who will now supply the local market and in turn save on the much-needed forex.
In 2004, Zimbabwe used to manufacture its own generic ARVs and other drugs through Varichem Pharmaceuticals, but production stopped in 2012 as the Government, who was the largest client, started getting their drugs from India through donors who up to date, supply about 90 percent of ARVs to the country.
Donors do not procure their drugs locally, hence the company was forced to stop manufacturing drugs as they had no uptake.
Over one million people are on Antiretroviral Therapy (ART) in the country and the drugs have all along been imported from China and India at a high cost as middlemen were doing the procurement for the Government.
Minister of Health and Child Care Deputy Minister Dr John Mangwiro told Sunday News in an interview that the long-term vision of National Aids Council (Nac) and the ministry is to be able to manufacture drugs including ARVs locally, so there is a need to look at drug manufacturing companies and have collaborations with them.
“I must say the ARVs that we were using as a country were all imported via third parties who would then go through fourth parties and sell to the Government. And these were very expensive but we are going to make sure these ARVs and other drugs are now going to be manufactured locally by our own local companies and this will bring down the cost of drugs,” said Dr Mangwiro.
He said Zimbabwe recently managed to make procurement without middlemen and will now use that route while they capacitate local firms.
“Natpharm has not been able to buy drugs directly from the manufacturer in India because the middlemen wanted to do the job himself and supply the Government, not the other way round where the Government buys in bulk and gives the middlemen to distribute.
“However, Natpharm recently went straight to the manufacturer and bought for themselves despite the fretting of the middlemen and we will continue while we capacitate our own industry for the ARV supply,” he said.
Nac chief executive officer Dr Bernard Madzima said the country was going to utilise local drug manufacturing companies for this venture.
“We are looking at companies like CAPS, Varichem, Datlabs and Johnson & Johnson. Those are companies that used to be in Zimbabwe and used to manufacture drugs. There is a need to look at those companies and see how we can make collaborations.
“That way, we are able to save in terms of foreign currency and we are also able to create employment and even export to the region,” he said.
Dr Madzima said Nac was mandated to identify how they could be relevant in terms of manufacturing of life saving ARVs.
However, it is not an overnight process, he said.
“There are a lot of procedures such as getting the active pharmaceutical ingredients, the issue of having the drugs pre-qualified by the World Health Organisation and also the market itself, are we able to absorb, will there be cost benefit. So, these things have to be interrogated.
“If these drugs are WHO pre-qualified then how do our partners come in, remember we also get support in terms of procuring ARVs from Global Fund, Pepfar, so all these things have to be answered. The process has however started,” said Dr Madzima.
He said the short-term measure that has been adopted is to cut the middle men and procure directly from the manufacturer.
“So, all those things are being looked at and the bottom line and wish is to minimise and cut to the lowest level possibly the cost of ARVs.”
He said local manufacturing of ARVs and other drugs is in line with what the Ministry and NAC would also want and to ensure drugs freely available to everyone-sundaynews