Hospitals under drug pressure

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The [b]Western Cape Health Department[/b] says it is scrambling to manage extensive drug shortages triggered by the national [b]Department of Health’s[/b] ‘poor management’ of a key tender, an allegation flatly denied by top government officials. [s]Business Day[/s] reports that the Western Cape Health Department issued a press statement warning patients on chronic medication to expect smaller quantities than usual and urging them to completely use up their prescriptions before requesting another.

Provincial head of Health, Craig Househam, said the shortages affected a wide range of medications, including those used to treat heart conditions and high cholesterol. He attributed the stock-outs to a delay in the national department’s awarding of its two-year oral solid dose tender and unexpected changes to the list of medicines it included. Many new suppliers could not immediately meet demand. The oral solid dose tender is one of the biggest medicine contracts managed by the health department, and includes products ranging from aspirin to antidepressants. Most of the medicines on the tender are on the government’s list of approved medicines known as the [b]Essential Medicines List (EML)[/b], but it also includes some additional products requested by provinces.

But the national Health department’s deputy director-general for health regulation and compliance, Dr Anban Pillay, said the Western Cape Health department had been intimately involved throughout in managing the oral solid dose tender. Pillay conceded that some medicines were in short supply, but said this was due to capacity constraints among the pharmaceutical companies. The national department’s head of procurement, Gavin Steel, said a report he had received from the Western Cape on October 23 indicated shortages of 70 medicines, some of which had already been resolved. The national health department had been forced to delay the two year tender, which was due to start on 1 August, but only until 13 August, he said.

Full Business Day report
Full report in The Times

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