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Lockdown putting a strain on SA’s antiretrovirals stocks

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There are workarounds when a drug is out of stock, but lockdown is making them difficult for patients to access.

ANTIRETROVIRALS, contraceptives and anti-infectives were among medications most commonly out of stock in pharmacies across South Africa.

The Stop Stockouts Project said medicine supply problems were already causing chronic issues throughout the country and the global Covid-19 crisis had worsened the situation.

The project is an initiative by six NGOs to monitor stockouts and assist people whose lives are threatened by shortages of essential medicines.

Co-ordinator Ruth Dube said many countries were experiencing stockouts: “Covid-19 is consuming existing resources globally, so drug manufacturers are now manufacturing supplies that are needed in the Covid-19 response, so the usual drug supply is disrupted.”

Its data for April indicates that the contraceptives commonly out of stock countrywide included the Depo-provera and Nur-isterate injections, Implanon implant, and Oralcon, Triphasil and Diane oral pills. Anti-infectives which were out of stock at some facilities were Aciclovir, Metronidazole, Amoxicillin and Cloxacillin. The ARV therapies sometimes unavailable included Darunavir, Nevirapine, Aluvia, Dumiva and the combination FDC.

Indira Govender of the Rural Health Doctors Association of Southern Africa said this information was only based on the sample health care facilities surveyed by the initiative, and could be the tip of the iceberg. Govender made it clear that these stockouts had been a long-standing problem. There are workarounds when a drug is out of stock, but lockdown was making them difficult for patients to access.

The decision by Health Minister Zweli Mkhize to extend prescriptions for certain medications during lockdown has also affected supply.

This allows chronic patients to take home longer-term supplies of their medication, adding to the strain. 

The Department of Health did not respond to requests for comment.