Ministry of Health (MoH) is disposing of K471.8 million worth of expired medicines in various hospitals nationwide, raising concerns among district health officers (DHOs) that the country is turning into a drug dumpsite.
A snap survey with some DHOs who spoke on condition of anonymity revealed that most drugs donated to various hospitals either come a few months before expiry or are not in demand; hence, they end up expiring for lack of use.
“Most of the drugs we receive from donors, whether international or local, are usually not on demand and the useful ones are usually six months to expiry date,” said one DHO.
But while confirming that hospitals are disposing of expired drugs, MoH spokesperson Joshua Malango denied that the drugs are distributed near expiry dates.
“It’s not true that most donated drugs are six months to expiry dates. We appreciate the donations that we get from various donors and well-wishers. The issue here is that some of these drugs donated are or were not on demand at the time of donation,” he said.
Malango said so far, they are disposing of medicines worth about K471.8 million from eight hospitals in Mzimba South, Kasungu, Ntcheu, Ntchisi, Dowa, Salima, Dedza and Zomba Mental Hospital.
“At Dedza we have disposed of drugs worth K19 million, but we are still calculating because in some districts, we haven’t done it yet,” he said.
Some of the drugs being dispensed of, according to MoH, are quinine injection and tablets, liquid morphine, dexamethazone eye drops, ORS sachets, albendazole, ARVs, Vitamin A, loperamide, and insulin.
“Take note that some of the drugs are donated directly to the health facilities and the ministry has no control to revoke them if they are not on demand. Some of the drugs cannot be in demand in certain districts, for example, giving trachoma drugs to districts that don’t have the disease may mean they will not be used,” he explained.
In an interview yesterday, Malawi Health Equity Network (Mhen) says there is need for policy reinforcement on donations of medical equipment and drugs to avoid the situation.
Mhen executive director George Jobe said government should be able to reject donated drugs or medical equipment that are of no use to the country.
“We need reinforcement of medical drugs and equipment on what we need to receive or not. We need to have a policy that can allow us to say no and receive only that which is required at a particular period,” he said. n