Adopt zero tolerance on counterfeit drugs

Wednesday May 2 2018

The Health ministry’s appeal to experts to assist the government in stepping up monitoring systems aimed at curbing fake drugs and vaccines underlines the challenges that we face as a country in controlling the movement and consumption of counterfeit medicines.

The recent persistent shortage of drugs in the country has opened loopholes for dealers in fake drugs and vaccines to run amok. Counterfeit medicines and medical supplies are increasingly finding their way into Tanzania, causing devastating side effects on the population.

It is for this reason that we support President John Magufuli’s recent directive to the Health ministry to empower firms and individuals seeking to invest in the pharmaceuticals industry to reduce imports while ensuring self-sufficiency. It is a shame that local companies contracted by the Medical Stores Department (MSD) to procure medical supplies for Tanzanian hospitals receive a measly Sh28 billion (six per cent) out of Sh460 billion set aside for the purpose. The rest (94 per cent) goes to foreign firms.

With a robust drugs manufacturing sector, billions set aside for medical supplies – including the Sh269 billion earmarked for the 2017/18 financial year – would go into developing local firms. This would ensure sufficient supply of drugs and medical supplies at affordable prices, hence shutting out counterfeits.

However, while protectionism is important for the growth of the local pharmaceuticals industry, and by extension the national economy, we urge the government to be balanced in its support of local manufacturers.

Discouraging legal importation of drugs, especially at this time when we don’t have the capacity to produce all that we need, will create a vacuum that smugglers will continue to fill. As we build that capacity, including investment in medical experts and researchers, we should continue to allow legal importation of crucial drugs and medical supplies while tightening the noose on smugglers.

LET’S PROTECT OUR CHILDREN

We ran a story yesterday showing that between 2015 and March, this year, 165 students in Mpwapwa District, Dodoma Region, were expelled from school due to pregnancy.

The figure is shocking given the fact that this is only one district. It means that regional and national figures are much higher. The current education policy, however, bars such students from returning to public schools after giving birth.

While it is not within the scope of this editorial to discuss this policy, when the education journey of a young Tanzanian is cut short, for whatever reason, it should be a matter of concern for all.

It is generally accepted that education is the key of life. It is the key to success, for an individual and society as a whole. Education prepares people to become productive and capable of acting responsibly.

Prevention is better than cure, so an adage goes. With this in mind, education for all becomes a matter of life and death. To prevent youngsters from engaging in unhealthy relationships, society must up its moral standards.

These should be passed on to girls and boys alike. Every adult should shoulder parental responsibility even for children who are not theirs.

Education on reproductive health, sexuality and relationships should be provided via schools, seminars, houses of worship and even through sporting events.

Let us protect the lives and future of our children.