A pharmacist at Kabwe General Hospital has bemoaned the critical shortage of anti retroviral (ARV) drugs across Zambia, saying HIV patients will suffer the consequences of missing drugs in future and the government must take responsibility.
The senior pharmacist John Kabwe (not his real name; speaking on the condition of anonymity) said the current shortage of ARVs had a lot of negative effects on both the HIV patents and society at large.
“It is so amazing that we have heard the President Mr Michael Sata has flown out of the country secretly to go and receive proper healthcare abroad, while his people have no basic medicines such as ARV drugs at in the health centres. We thought as a leader, he should have been at the centre of the efforts to resolve the problem. It does not auger well because the subject of ARVs is a big matter in our health delivery system but the president is is quiet,” he said.
Kabwe said this was not the first time Zambia was experiencing a shortage of the HIV drugs in the last two years. He said the adequate supply of ARVs must be the government’s major priority under the health delivery plan.
“It is people like me who work with people on ARVs that understand the real challenge and consequence of the current shortage of drugs. The situation is critical compared to what the politicians are making it look. People are panicking because they do not want to experience relapses. Our hospital has a big catchment area that caters for people who come from many far flung areas in the rural districts and since we are rationing drugs with two week packages instead of three months doses, people are being made the travel long distances every two weeks and they have to spend lots of money but this is apart from other costs,” he said.
Kabwe said pharmacists at the hospital were rationing drugs and very soon, there will be reports of pilferage to the black market because HIV patients were desperate for medication.
He said proper combinations ARVs were being combined with wrong elements because the shortage of truvada was making it impossible to make the right doses.
“Very soon, some unscrupulous workers will start pilfering the ARVs because the market is already there. Many people on ARVs are ready to buy the drugs that are being supplied freely by the government, but because of the shortage, people are willing to pay so that they can have enough supply,” he said.
Kabwe said the government was not telling the truth on the ARV situation in Zambia because they ministers n government were saying it was only truvada, which was in short supply.
He said truvada was in short supply but this situation had forced people to resort to other drugs which could instigate other health complications such as hallucinations.
“It would be great if the minister of health could listen to the people’s cries. Health workers who are on the ground are really worried about the situation because they are the one who deal with people on ARVs. The people on ARVs are really worried because they are being forced to go on strange doses, which spark effects such as temporal madness,” he said.
Kabwe said the shortage of ARVs in Zambia was not being handled with the seriousness that it deserves.
Kabwe said there would be disastrous consequences if the supply of ARVs does not stablise in the next two weeks because some health centre would have run out of the life prolonging drugs.