Kenya seeks Malawi aid for anti-TB drugs

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The government has approached Malawi for help to boost first-line anti-tuberculosis drugs stock, Face of Malawi can now reveal.

This development comes even as non-governmental organisations and other stakeholders raised alarm over the shortage, saying it could reverse gains made since 2010.

A confidential government memo seen by the media shows a looming stock shortage of the first-line TB drugs as it emerged procurement of the drugs was not factored in the 2014/15 financial year.   This is despite more than 1,000 patients placed under multi-drug resistant TB treatment. Out of the figure, 547 of patients are under active treatment phase,  219 on intensive cure, while 328 are under continuation phase,  according to Country TB Medicines Stock Status report.

The memo—dated May 29 and circulated within government and other stakeholders’ offices—State officials raised concerns the country could run out of the drugs in three months. “The most feasible option right now will be to borrow from countries that have stock as procurement will take time,” the report indicates.

The country requires $2.2 million (Sh191.4 million) to procure the drugs.  But, yesterday the ministry allayed fears of a looming crisis. Head of Preventive and Promotive Health Services at the Ministry of Health, Dr William Maina said the government does not anticipate shortages.

“That concern was there one month ago when we realised our stocks were going down. We moved quickly and asked for help,” he said, adding: “Malawi agreed to give the government drugs.”        The TB program wrote several correspondences to the Ministry of Health and Treasury citing the lack of allocation of funds for procurement as a factor that will lead to reversal of gains made in the TB treatment success.

However, despite an assurance as at February 2014 that the funds will be factored in the supplementary budget nothing happened further causing anxiety among health sector NGOs and the government. Further, the memo indicates that, the Country had built adequate stocks of buffer such that as at July 2013, it had approximately 12 months at national level.

“But now we are left with only about 3 months stock for most commodities since we missed a cycle of procurement for 2013/ 2014 and utilized the buffer stocks,” indicates the confidential government communication. But, yesterday the ministry allayed fears that the shortage had been contained with the fast tracking of procurement of patient packs that are awaiting clearance at the port of Mombasa.

Head of Preventive and Promotive Health Services at the Ministry of Health, Dr. William Maina told People Daily that the government does not expect any shortages especially with the first line anti-TB drugs. He confirmed that the scare was there one month ago after Treasury failed for the second financial year, to allocate finances for the purchase of anti-TB drugs but now that situation had been resolved with support of the Global Drug Facility (GDF).

“That concern was there one month ago when we looked at our forecasts of two and half months to three and realized our stocks were going down than expected. We moved quickly to our neighbouring friends and asked for help,” he said and added that, Malawi agreed to give the government drugs that would cushion the remaining stocks.

He said Kenyans should not be worried, as the situation has been contained. Maina said 100, 000 TB patients are treated every year. In mid last month, a number of health sector NGOs coming together under the Kenya AIDS NGO Consortium (KANCO) said if the issue of TB drugs stock outs is not addressed, the country is likely to experience increased cases of Drug Resistant, the strain of TB that is costing the country hundreds of millions to treat and manage.

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