New system to ease access to medicine

Wednesday May 9 2018

A pharmacy in Kigali

A pharmacy in Kigali. The new system will see medicines and medical supplies delivered in the right quantity, quality and at the right time. PHOTO | FILE 

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The country is working on a special process that will ease procurement of medicine and help eliminate bureaucracies that have led to a constant drug shortage in hospitals and pharmacies.

Currently, all imported drugs and medical equipment are procured under a process manned by the Medical Procurement and Production Division at the Rwanda Biomedical Centre (RBC).

Ironically, this follows a government decision last year to make RBC an independently run body with powers to sidestep excessive regulations in the mandatory procurement laws.

The Medical Procurement and Production Division has been unsuccessful in reducing the beauracry and problems in procuring medicine have persisted, leading to constant drug shortages across the country.

Now, the government is trying a new formula that will see a separation of the division from RBC and instead merge the Medical Procurement and Production Division with district pharmacies.


The merger is expected to run under a state-owned company that has already been registered as Rwanda Medical Supplies Ltd.

“This change will ensure all medicine, medical supplies and consumables are provided in the right quantity and quality, to the right place and customers, at the right time and with optimum cost to the Rwandan population,” Malick Kayumba, head of the Health Communication Division at RBC told Rwanda Today.

Currently, the Medical Procurement and Production Division buys essential and generic drugs and then resells them to health facilities. It also manages health products that are provided to patients for free or at low prices that are subsidised by the government.

“The supply chain for health products is designed in a way that district pharmacies gather and order all needs from health facilities such as hospitals and health centres. This is done through an electronic logistics and tracking system,” said Mr Kayumba.

“District pharmacies are equipped with vehicle tracks for active distribution to hospitals, health centres and health posts according to their circumscriptions,” he added.


The country is still burdened by a heavy importation of drugs with virtually no local production of drugs and medicines. Available data shows that the country spent Rwf74.2 billion to import drugs in the 2015/2016 financial year.

The government has sought to attract investors in the pharmaceutical industry to ease this burden. In October, Moroccan firm Cooper Pharma became the country’s first foreign investorin the industry after launching a $6million pharmaceutical plant at the Kigali Special Economic Zone.

The plant is scheduled to be operational in 2019 and will produce common antibiotics.

Another challenge is the government established a quality assurance system to ensure that the drugs supplied across the country are of good quality, but the framework has a limited capacity in terms of infrastructure, human and financial resources.

There is also no pharmaceutical pricing policy in Rwanda, which has seen prices of drugs and medical products generally be high and in most cases unaffordable to the majority of the population, according to data from the health ministry.