PHARMACEUTICAL Society of Zambia (PSZ) president Jerome Kanyika has asked government to empower local pharmacists with raw materials to enable them continue manufacturing drugs in an event that the country is locked out by its suppliers amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.

In an interview with News Diggers! Kanyika confirmed that while there was no risk of drugs getting contaminated during transit from suppliers into Zambia, there was a concern that the country may still face challenges if all its suppliers suspended exportation of drugs during this period as the world battled with the Coronavirus pandemic.

Kanyika said that Zambian pharmacists had all the knowledge required to manufacture drugs, but that the only challenge remained the lack of access to industries and raw materials.

“We know that there is no risk of the drugs coming from outside the country being contaminated, while we are in this period because we understand the kind of procedures that are involved in the importation of drugs and all the precautions that are taken. But our worry is about the lock-down that has been effected in India. Most of the drugs we get in Zambia come from India, but now India is at lock-down for about 21 days, meaning that we will be very much affected also because we get our drugs from there. Already, we have started seeing the skyrocketing of some prices of goods that have started going up on the market. Now, we are getting worried for the drugs; at what price will this leave the drugs? How many people are going to afford the drugs that are likely to come? So, this is our main worry as the Pharmaceutical Society,” Kanyika explained.

“We want to know what measures government has put in place to make sure that this thing is avoided when there is a lock-down in countries where we get our supplies from. It started with China and now it has gone into India. So, we are so worried in a situation where things get worse. But if government can provide the raw materials, we will be able to make these basic drugs that we use on a daily basis. If government can empower us by making the raw materials available and negotiating with the owners of the industries, then we would be good to go. As you may be aware, the industries, which manufacture drugs, locally, are privately-owned so, that, now, may require government to enter into agreements with those private owners of those industries. Then, ourselves, we will be ready to provide expertise to manufacture these drugs.”

Kanyika explained that pharmacists in Zambia were so far contributing to the prevention of the spread of Coronavirus by manufacturing hand sanitizers, which were being distributed in public hospitals around the country.

“What we are trying to do, as Pharmaceutical Society of Zambia as a way of contributing to stopping the spread of COVID-19, is that we are trying to make sure that all the commodities required to adequately prepare ourselves for the worst scenario of COVID-19 is available in public institutions. Things like face masks, surgical gloves and the hand sanitizers. So, what we have started doing, through our members is that, we have started producing hand sanitizers to be used by these hospitals. Go to Ndola Central Hospital, we are also doing the same just to make sure that we prepare adequately for this infection and we want this to be extended to other institutions where they may be having the same challenges,” Kanyika narrated.

He said it would also help pharmacists a great deal if government stepped in and made a number of items available for them.

“We already have the capacity and we have expertise of people, who are already trained by the World Health Organization (WHO), and they are already certified to manufacture these hand sanitizers and other chemicals that we use in infection control like these ones, which we currently have. With all the challenges that we may have, we are doing this in a positive way and if things get worse, us, as a profession, we have the expertise. So, it is now up to other people, including government to come on board and say, ‘we want you guys to make panadol, we want you guys to produce the antibiotics and this is the place where you can do the work from.’ We will be able to do that because we already have the expertise,” said Kanyika.