PSMAS partners Indian firm in drugs deal

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ZIMBABWE’S largest medical insurance company, Premier Medical Aid Society (PSMAS), has brokered a manufacturing deal with a reputable Indian firm, Catchet Pharmaceuticals, to help bring down prices of a third generation antibiotic drug called Ceftriaxone.

By Everson Mushava

Ceftriaxone is an antibiotic used to treat certain infections caused by bacteria such as gonorrhoea.

These include sexually transmitted diseases, meningitis, pelvic inflammatory disease in females and infections of the lungs, ears, skin, urinary tract, blood, bones, joints, and abdomen.

Under the arrangement, being handled by its subsidiary, Premier Service Medical Investments (PSMI), PSMAS will bankroll the manufacturing of the drug while the Mumbai-based firm will put a marginal mark-up — an arrangement which would reduce the drug cost by half.

PSMI group business development and customer relations manager Nhamo Murandu said the first batch of the drug arrived in the country last week.

“This consignment should be on the shelves of our Harare outlets by this coming Wednesday and the rest of the country by Friday,” Murandu said.

“The distribution chain has been too long and wide, too many middlemen were making the injectable drug expensive. At least we will become more liquid and be able to buy more drugs and cover the current shortages plus, from it we may also hope to open more outlets and bring service to the people.

“We believe by mid-June, we would have received our wholesale licence and then be able to provide for the country demand,” he said.
The quasi-government institution services largely civil servants — claiming 870 000 of the 1, 3 million medically insured Zimbabweans.

The arrangement will bring some relief to the company which was struggling to recover from the economic effects of 2008.

Before the latest arrangement, middlemen used to import drugs from countries such as India and pass on the cost to the patients.

Under the initiative, National Aids Council procures ARVs in bulk and distributes them through National Pharmaceutical Company to about 400 retail pharmacies, which have reportedly agreed to stick to a minimal agreed mark-up.

Catchet chief executive officer Kumar Shashi said his company had the capacity to supply the whole country.

PSMI came into existence in 2003 and it has grown to be a medical giant with 89 branches around the country, although recent reports showed that the medical insurer owed doctors and other service providers in excess of $140 million.