The Central Medical Stores Trust (CMST) last Thursday burnt piles of medical drugs in Lilongwe, some of which expired while lying in warehouses.
While sources claimed that tonnes of drugs were silently taken out to be destroyed, CMST spokesperson Herbert Chandilanga said the quantities were not as high as alleged by our sources.
He added that some of the drugs were programme items, which are not directly under CMST the entity keeps them on behalf of specific programmes, such as family planning, tuberculosis and malaria.
But our source claimed that several seven-tonne trucks were used to remove the expired drugs from CMST warehouses in Lilongwe to be destroyed.
“The isolating of items for board off [destroying] was done between February 2014 and October 2016. For Lilongwe it took place on February 7 and 8 2017. While in Blantyre, it was on February 9. In Mzuzu it is yet to take place,” said Chandilanga.
According to Chandilanga, the value of the drugs to be destroyed cumulatively, at national scale, at the last usable date was K436 563 918.53.
He, however, denied that all the drugs that were destroyed had expired, were misprocured or were product of poor stock management, saying there were a number of reasons the drugs had to be destroyed.
“Drugs can be destroyed due to, among other things, strides in healthcare such as hospitals recording no cases for conditions or diseases whose medicines CMST was duly prepared for and had in stock. But also the duplication caused through donations of medicines that CMST already had. Hospitals may not buy from CMST whose stocks have been outmoded by free donated items. This may lead to expiries,” he said.
But a health commentator Maziko Matemba said, among other things, the country needs a clear policy on drug donations, claiming that most drugs that get expired are those that were acquired without planning.
Executive director for Malawi Health Network (Mehn), a grouping of health-based organisations in the country, George Jobe, in a telephone interview yesterday called for change of policy to regulate drug donations and the handling of boarding off of drugs in the country.
“ This is a worrisome development that the country can afford to lose large stockpiles of drugs while people are failing to access the same in various hospitals. Unfortunately, the issue is complex and needs a multisectoral approach. Some drugs are donated six months before they expire, we should not take in drugs that have less than 12 months to go,” said Jobe.
He also called for the decentralisation of boarding off of drugs, saying the current system which is handled at the central level is allowing the accumulation of unwanted drugs to be kept for years inorder to follow laid down procedures.