PEOPLE’s Alliance for Change (PAC) president Andyford Banda says the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) should take interest to investigate how Honey Bee Pharmacy won the tender to supply drugs to government if it has proved that it has no capacity to do so.

And Medical for Quality Healthcare in Zambia (MQHZ) director general Quince Mwabu says the Ministry of Health and ZAMRA must be serious when handling issues to do with medical drugs before dispensing them to the people.

In an interview, Banda wondered how Honeybee won the drug supply tender.

“The issue of Honey Bee is as a result that this company did not have the experience to manage such an order. And that is the reason why it is not surprising to learn that the drugs, which they supplied, did not meet the standard according to the Zambia Medical Regulatory Authority (ZAMRA). Honey Bee is obviously an issue that was borne out of corruption where some people were having a beer at a certain place and said, ‘no, I have got connections where I can supply some medicines if you give me this contract,’ without a trace of experience in managing tenders at this magnitude. This tender was worth about K340 million,” Banda said.

“We want to see a situation where this matter is investigated further by the ACC. And we want to know whether these drugs are going to be replaced by Honey Bee or if government is going to get a refund from the manufacturer. Otherwise, we cannot just make this issue die just like that. The role of ZAMRA is not necessarily to demand for this money to come back, but to ensure that the public is supplied with drugs that will not cause danger to society. We want to see a proper roadmap on what the way forward with the US $17 million worth of drugs is; is government working towards ensuring that Honey Bee pays back the money or that the alternative drugs are given? And we demand, as PAC, that government issues a statement immediately to tell the public about the way forward on whether the money will be funded or alternative drugs will be supplied.”

Banda said ZAMRA and the Health Professionals Council of Zambia (HPCZ) should not be biased when dealing with drug-related issues between private and public health institutions.

“ZAMRA needs to ensure that they pull up their socks in terms of monitoring these drugs. The challenge that we have in this country is that we have got organisations, such as ZAMRA and HPCZ, who pay a blind eye to things that have to do with government and then they just focus on private practitioners, such as clinics and hospitals. But they forget that, actually, even in government hospitals is where we find a lot of expired drugs and a lot of rules being flouted by government hospitals and clinics. Our word to ZAMRA is that they should not just focus on enforcing the law on private clinics and hospitals, but they should ensure that they act quickly and do inspections, even in government facilities. And if they did that, today, we would not even have this issue of Honey Bee with toxic drugs being dispensed on people,” said Banda.

And in a statement, Mwabu said the blame for Honey Bee’s supply of toxic drugs fell squarely on ZAMRA.

“The MQHZ is shocked at revelations that the Ministry of Health distributed unspecified paracetamol in clinics and hospitals across the country. As MQHZ, we squarely blame ZAMRA for this scandal. This is because the authority’s duty is to check the sustainability and safety of medicines before dispatch to health institutions,” stated Mwabu.

“Our fear, as an organisation, is the potential damage this unspecified paracetamol could do to patients. We demand for seriousness in the way ZAMRA and the Ministry of Health handle medicines before exposing innocent citizens to any kind of drugs. To send the right and strong message to everyone, we further demand that those at ZAMRA, who are responsible for checking suitability and safety of medicines in the country, be disciplined for gross negligence.”