Government will take advantage of the visit by India’s Vice-President Venkaiah Naidu, who is expected in Zimbabwe this week, to explore mutually beneficial partnerships that could help rehabilitate the country’s once-vibrant pharmaceutical sector.

Government plans to guarantee adequate supply of essential drugs in the country.

In his weekly column in The Sunday Mail, President Emmerson Mnangagwa said his administration was aggressively pursuing ways of cushioning the public from medicine shortages.

He said the visit by India’s VP presented an opportunity to tap into the Asian emerging economic giant’s globally recognised achievements in pharmaceuticals.

India has the world’s third-largest pharmaceutical industry in terms of volume.

“This week we will host the Vice-President of India. India is a key drug supplier to us. Government hopes to take full advantage of this fraternal visit to explore possibilities on pharmaceutical supplies on the back of government-to-government arrangements.

“Likewise, we will engage other governments with supply capacity at good value for money. Our scope of engagement with friendly governments will go beyond drug imports.

“We will explore ways to reboot our capacity for the local production of essential drugs as before,” said President Mnangagwa.

Zimbabwe’s drug supply situation, he added, was being hampered by a $27 million legacy debt owed by private importers to foreign suppliers.

Foreign currency disbursements for the health sector by the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe, as a result, have largely been ineffective as they have been channelled to servicing debts rather than bringing in supplies of drugs.

President Mnangagwa’s administration will use NatPharm, which procures and supplies drugs on behalf of Government, to begin purchasing medicines as it not as financially encumbered as private sector players.

This is also envisaged to lower prices of live-saving drugs as happened when the National Aids Council started procuring antiretroviral drugs, forcing private suppliers to lower their medicine prices.

Government will inject $60 million into NatPharm to stabilise drugs supply, while funds are being mobilised to retire the legacy debt and enable the private sector to play its role.

“In the immediate and interim, we must use our national drug store facility, NatPharm, which is the least encumbered, as our vehicle for placing fresh orders for medicines, while we tackle the legacy debt.

“Where foreign drug suppliers have local agents who may be incapacitated to import for reasons already cited, some arrangements may have to be reached with NatPharm so we move speedily to plug the import gap,” he said.

Zimbabwe, the President noted, once manufactured more than 80 percent of the country’s drugs through vibrant pharmaceutical manufacturers and enterprises such as CAPS, Datlabs, Pharmanova and Varichem.

Plans are underway to revamp CAPS as talks with a prospective partner are being finalised.

Government also intends to direct more resources to fight non-communicable diseases, as donor support is mainly concentrated in communicable diseases and at primary healthcare level.

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