- “There are however specific factors that make Botswana more vulnerable”
The current shortage of pharmaceutical products at healthcare facilities across Botswana is not unique to the country because the challenge of availability of medicines is a global phenomenon, the Minister of Health, Dr Edwin Dikoloti, has said.
However, Dikoloti spoke of specific factors making Botswana more vulnerable, among them the lack of pharmaceutical manufacturing in the country, compels the country to import all its medical commodities.
Addressing a press conference in Gaborone on the medical supply situation in Botswana recently, the health minister said the small population of Botswana is yet another factor affecting the ability of the Ministry of Health (MoH) to procure medicines as it fails to capture the interest of pharmaceutical manufacturers. “It is very important to understand that medicines are manufactured on specific orders for specific countries and that manufacturing companies work with quantities,” he noted. “Therefore, as Botswana with our small population, we fail to make enough quantities to interest manufacturers.”
Because of the population factor, Dikoloti added, MoH is exploring further the use of big companies that are not only manufacturers but also aggregators, meaning that they can pull orders from different countries to make the quantities needed for manufacturing as a long-term risk mitigation strategy. “I also need to mention the local procurement regulatory framework that does not support efficient procurement of medicines and medical commodities,” Dikoloti said.
He assured Batswana that in addition to the short-term interventions currently in place to address the medical supply shortages, MoH has long-term interventions for ensuring that the country has sufficient supplies of medicines at all public healthcare facilities across the country. These include luring pharmaceutical manufacturers to come and set up shop in Botswana, noting that shortage of medicines and other pharmaceutical products is not only about procurement of them but is also about disease prevention, early diagnosis, timely management of illnesses, and rational use of pharmaceutical.
Minister Dikoloti disclosed that MoH has decided to concentrate on revitalisation of primary health care. “This should reduce disease prevalence and the volume/quantity of medication required to manage diseases,” he said. “I have therefore decided to improve on clinical case management, which should introduce lifestyle changes and modifications that would prevent and minimise diseases and conditions such as obesity, diabetes, hypertension and complications of such diseases.”
As a long-term strategy, he noted, Central Medical Stores (CMS) – which is responsible for procurement, storage and distribution of healthcare commodities on behalf of the government – will start using local framework contracts to manage procurement of medical commodities. “To-date two framework tenders have been awarded which contain critical medicines,” said the minister. “The third framework tender is at cooling period while some are in progress.”