GOVERNANCE activist Rueben Lifuka says it’s unimaginable that ZAMMSA, after the highly publicised Honeybee saga, would handle drugs and health kits at the centre of controversy in such a careless manner.

And former Health Minister Dr Brian Chituwo says the Zambia Medicines and Medical Supplies Agency (ZAMMSA) must clearly indicate how it intends to improve internal quality assurance procedures.

In response to a press query, Tuesday, Lifuka said it was worrisome that ZMMSA did not communicate their so-called error not until a story was published by News Diggers.

He called for disciplinary action to be taken against all individuals involved.

“The continued Honeybee saga and the latest development where drugs that are supposed to be quarantined were purportedly erroneously distributed, is a cause for serious concern. It is unimaginable that after the highly publicised saga involving Honeybee, the Zambia Medicines and Medical Supplies Agency would handle the drugs and health kits at the centre of controversy, in such a careless manner. What is even more worrisome is that ZAMMSA did not communicate their so called error not until there was a story that broke in the News Diggers. The question is would ZAMMSA, on its own volition have communicated this sad episode to the Zambian people? There are questions abound particularly that there is an admission by ZAMMSA of occasional mistakes in the handling of drugs, how many such mistakes have been made in the recent past and what remedial measures have been taken? Disciplinary action should be taken against all those involved and senior management should accept full responsibility for this unfortunate development,” Lifuka stated.

He also called on government to outline how it was cleaning up the whole procurement and logistics management system at the Ministry of Health and ZAMMSA.

“What is shocking is that the former Minister of Health recently made a categorical statement in parliament that there were no expired drugs from Honeybee and that Zambia had sufficient vigilance mechanisms for preventing such an occurrence. Clearly, the statement from ZAMMSA and its admission, demonstrates that there was something wrong with the quality of drugs procured through Honeybee,” stated Lifuka.

“This issue should be fully investigated and it is important that ZAMMSA allays public concerns that it has been distributing expired or even poor quality drugs. ZAMMSA needs to convince the public that no one has been forced to consume drugs that are not fit for purpose. Government should equally outline how it is cleaning up the whole procurement and logistics management system at the Ministry of Health and now ZAMMSA. It is unfortunate that the transfer of procurement from the Ministry of Health to ZAMMSA is not engendering public confidence. And at the earliest opportunity, can ZAMMSA have these substandard drugs either destroyed or removed from their warehouses so as not to have any future mistakes?”

And in an interview, Dr Chituwo said ZAMMSA needed to assure the public that such mistakes would be avoided in future.

“We are talking about procedures. The fact that ZAMMSA has rendered an apology to the nation following their internal audit, the question in my view that should be asked is how can ZAMMSA ensure that such a thing does not happen again? There are standard procedures as they have rightly put it about internal quality control mechanisms. Surely if those failed, there must be somebody or people responsible for that. It is not good enough to render an apology and say there was a breach in this procedure. The purpose of this quality assurance is to detect a mistake or breach which is about to be undertaken and prevent that from happening,” he said.

“So have they assured the nation that there will be a review of the internal quality assurance procedures? And in any case, I would like to believe that there should be a quality improvement system in ZAMMSA. What assurance are they giving the nation that this will not happen? Beyond that, are they going to undertake a study as to what consequences arose out of those people who might have consumed the drugs?”

Dr Chituwo said the purpose of quality assurance was to ensure that patients had quality medicines.

“I think it should be in the interest of ZAMMSA and ZAMRA. The purpose of quality assurance is to ensure that the patients or clients to be have quality medicines to treat the ailments to which those medicines are meant. Not the medicines meant to cause illnesses. So is there an assurance to say a thing if this nature will not happen again? Or that they will tighten and improve the quality assurance procedures so that such mistakes are not detected after the event but before?” asked Dr Chituwo.