Zimbabwe: Drug Companies’ Production Remains Low As Forex Shortages Bite

By Anna Chibamu
Zimbabwe’s pharmaceutical industry continues importing critical medicines such as anti-retroviral drugs (ARVs) as the sector faces low levels of production due to a vast number of challenges including foreign currency shortages.

Giving oral evidence to the Thematic Portfolio Committee on HIV/Aids Monday, Industry Ministry secretary Mavis Sibanda revealed local manufacturers’ production of drugs was only US$31.5 million while US$213 million worth of medicines were imported annually.

“The pharmaceutical market size of Zimbabwe is estimated at US$244.5 million while local manufacturers produce only US$31.5 million worth of products while the remaining is imported,” she told the committee.

“The major challenge facing the local pharmaceutical industry is the low levels of production where the industry accounts for only 12% of the medicines which are consumed locally whilst 88% are imported.”

Sibanda said she could not give a timeframe when the local production of critical drugs such as ARVs would begin.

However, the top ministry officials added another challenge facing the pharmaceutical industry was that the process of importing drugs was lengthy and cumbersome.

Recently, the government engaged Varichem Pharmaceuticals with a view of resuscitating local manufacturing of ARVs.

According to Sibanda, the engagement followed last week’s visit to the company by Vice President and Health minister Constantino Chiwenga.

Varichem Pharmaceuticals was the first company to manufacture ARVs in Africa in 2006 although the drugs could not be used due to changes in formula leading to the halting of the production.

Meanwhile, Sibanda told the parliamentary portfolio committee that the government had launched a pharmaceutical strategy for 2021-2025 which targets to increase the market share of local pharmaceutical products from the current 12% to 35% by 2025.

The strategy is also targeted at increasing the local production of essential medicines from 30% to 60% by 2025 while sales revenue of local production will increase from US$31.5 million to US$150 million during the same period.

Exports in pharmaceutical products are expected to go up from 10% to 25% by the year 2025. Registration of new local products by 15% from the current 5% to 20%.

She said the pharmaceutical strategy requires US$45 million to implement.

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