15 September 2017
HARARE – The deepening cash crisis seems to be hitting hard all facets of
And their health has not been spared.
Yesterday, we published a story warning that an acute drugs shortage looms
as pharmaceutical companies are now struggling to secure foreign currency
to import medicines, even the basic ones.
Of note and great concern, the story highlighted that in the past month,
prices of basic drugs have increased by at least 20 percent.
According to a snap survey by the Daily News, figures obtained from three
separate pharmacies in Harare showed that widely used Ccomtrey
anti-biotic, which was selling for $13 as of August 1, is now selling for
$18 – representing a 33,3 percent increase.
Likewise, prices for common cough syrups such as 4Cs – used to treat
children with flu and cold – linctopent and benylin have increased
A 100ml bottle of 4Cs, which cost $2,50 on August 1 now costs $3,20;
Linctopent now costs $4, up from $3 while Benylyn recorded the biggest
jump, from $4 to $7 over the same period.
The price of Cardura Oral drug which is used in lowering high blood
pressure in patients susceptible to strokes, heart attacks, and kidney
problems also rose significantly from $15 to $23 while the price of its
alternative, Exforge increased from $19 in August to $24.
Without belabouring the point, this development goes to show that Zimbabwe
is sinking deeper, as the country lurches from one crisis to another.
Following the death of the country’s manufacturing sector, which saw the
collapse of drugs manufacturers such as CAPS Holdings – which used to
supply about 75 percent of the country’s medicines – the nation has relied
The country imports over $400 million worth of basic drugs each year.
That’s a huge import bill, before even including other imports like fuel.
In terms of Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe arrangements, pharmaceutical
companies willing to import finished medicines or raw materials approach
their banks and request payment of specific amounts to their foreign
trading partner through the bank’s nostro accounts.
The bank would then request approval from the RBZ, which then does its
allocations depending on the available foreign currency reserves.
But that seems not to be working.
Of late, there have been serious challenges in accessing foreign currency,
despite the RBZ having the pharmaceutical industry on its top priority
This simply means government needs to go back to the drawing board and
come up with sustainable long-term solutions, not these stop-gap measures.
It is the ordinary long-suffering Zimbabweans who bear the brunt and pain
of these poor government policies.
In this case, the rich and elite will simply fly to Singapore and other
countries with functional health systems to get medical attention, while
the hapless masses suffer.