National Pharmaceutical Company (NatPharm) has said foreign suppliers of drugs are now demanding cash up-front from Zimbabwe before releasing orders, further worsening the supplies of medicines in the country.

NatPharm managing director, Florah Sifeku said suppliers, including India, were conscious of the current shortage of foreign currency in Zimbabwe and were now only fulfilling orders upon payment.

“They (suppliers) have decided to withhold our orders until we have paid,” she told members of the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Health during a tour of NatPharm on Tuesday.

Sikefu said an estimated US$25 million was needed to pay for drugs required currently.

The company’s finance manager, Rowland Mlalazi said NatPharm does not owe local suppliers any outstanding funds.

Chairperson of the Portfolio Committee on Health and Child Care, Ruth Labode said the committee will reject the idea of establishing open retail outlets for the distribution of drugs when local hospitals and clinics were under-supplied.

Labode said NatPharm was not in a position to provide private pharmacies with drugs and medicines when local hospitals and clinics were not receiving enough supplies.

“While the presentation from NatPharm sees the company providing the necessary drugs to all, the issue on the ground is that there are no drugs in the hospitals and clinics,” she said.

She said Natpharm should have told the Health and Child Care minister, Obadiah Moyo, that the idea of distributing drugs through the proposed retail outlets was a blunder, considering that it required the establishment of outlets throughout the country so everyone could access healthcare.

“I can tell you from the onset that this will fail because this means every place in the country needs a pharmacy, otherwise you would leave out certain populations. So you need to tell the minister that from a technical perspective, the idea will fail,” she said.

Hurungwe Central MP, Dought Ndiweni, said the decision of privatising pharmacies would leave many people marginalised, especially the underprivileged.

“NatPharm should focus on providing clinics and hospitals with drugs before distributing to private pharmacies, otherwise we would have suppressed the poor person from accessing health care systems,” Ndiweni said.newsday