Health talk :TB drugs shortage drawback in combating disease


In September 2015, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development that includes 17 Sustainable Development Goals.

At the heart of the 2030 Agenda are five critical dimensions which include people, prosperity, planet, partnership and peace. HIV/Aids, malaria and tuberculosis have seen the global fund pooling billions of dollars to curb these menacing diseases. 

According to the World Health Organisation, a total of 1.6 million people died of tuberculosis in 2021, making TB the 13th leading cause of death in the world and the second leading infectious killer after the heinous Covid-19.

The year 2021 saw at least 10.6 million people suffering from TB globally with 6 million of them being men, 3.4 million women and  1.2 million children.

Ending the TB pandemic by 2030 is among the health targets of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.

The National Strategic Plan for TB (2021-2025) is aligned with the basic pillars and components of the World Health Organisation’s End TB Strategy and envisions a TB-free Zimbabwe by 2035.

Zimbabwe has been doing well in terms of TB diagnosis and treatment with the availability of drugs in all public health centres in the country. The vision of the National TB programme in Zimbabwe is to see a TB-free Zimbabwe that has at least 80% reduction in TB incidence and mortality by 2025.

 The gains achieved by the country in the fight against TB should not be reversed by the unfortunate events on the ground today.

 TB medication consists of Rifampicin, Isoniazid, Ethambutol and Pyrazinamide, drugs that now come in the form of fixed dose combinations. I had a snap survey of many health centres across Zimbabwe and TB drugs are in very short supplies with many health centres like Ruwa clinic, Goromonzi, Marondera Hospital having nothing in the shelves.

Clinics in Harare are reporting serious shortages of the life-saving drugs and we should not ululate when such unfortunate developments unfold.

TB treatment is supposed to be taken for at least six months and failure to adhere to treatment can result in drug resistance, increased morbidity and mortality.

It is catastrophic to run short of TB drugs in the country for fear of multidrug-resistant TB which can be a serious health crisis and health security threat.

Many lives can be lost if the current drug stock conundrum is not solved as a matter of urgency.

The country should have drug supply chain that is solid in terms of reliability, responsiveness and agility.

 Zimbabwe cannot plunge into drug inventory quagmire because of an unreliable supply chain. Inventory management strategies and demand forecasting methods should be expeditiously employed by our own ministry of Health and Child Care at Kaguvi building.

The ministry has a director of TB and Infectious Diseases and I am not sure if the director knows that many health centres have run short of TB drugs.

The calamitous stock-outs should be condemned to the last as there is gross threat to our public health as a nation.

 It is in the best interest of the country to select or work with drug suppliers that have short lead times as that can accommodate unexpected changes in demand.

Short supplier lead time can produce Pareto optimal outcomes even in the absence of other optimal policies.

If the TB treatment drugs remain in short supply, the hindrance on disease prevention is unbearable and it is an insurmountable task for the country to achieve Agenda 2030 where diseases like TB, Malaria and HIV/AIDS are supposed to have been drastically reduced.

The ministry of Health and Child Care should urgently address the issue of TB drugs shortages.

Many people are going to lose their precious lives because they cannot access the drugs. Complications will arise if TB is not treated early or if it is inadequately treated. We hope health centres are equipped as a matter of urgency.


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