Virus takes toll on throat, nose and eye drugs supply chain

Monday January 04 2021

Pharmacists in Kigali have raised concern over a shortage of throat, nose and eye drugs, in addition to antibiotics and painkillers. PHOTO | Cyril Ndegeya


Pharmacists in Kigali have raised concern over a shortage of throat, nose and eye drugs, Rwanda Today can reveal.

This is in addition to antibiotics and painkillers.

According to the pharmacists, the shortage is partly linked to the ongoing pandemic that has forced countries to resort to managing Covid-19 symptoms with the available throat, nose and eye drugs.

As a result of increasing demand for these drugs on the international market, drug manufacturers are not prioritizing supplies to relatively small African markets including Rwanda.

“For months now we can't get some of these vital drugs, for the case of throat, nose and eye drugs it is on another level, you can't find them anywhere, patients come and we can't help them.”

“In my view it is an issue of demand exceeding supply, they prioritise the big markets in case of a shortage and that is what is happening,” said Twagirayezu Irenee, of Mary Queen Pharmacy in Kanombe.


He said the prices of a wide range of drugs have also increased sharply this year, partly because importers spent more on transporting the drugs to Rwanda due to logistical glitches.

He says the manufacturers and other players in the drug distribution chains increased the prices of drugs, and retailers were also left with no option but to sell at a higher price.

As a result, some patients, especially in the out-of-pocket category, have ended up foregoing treating certain ailments.
“Some customers come to buy drugs, but when I tell them the price, they weigh and opt for foregoing the drugs, as buying food becomes the priority,” said Mr Twagirayezu.

The delays in updating drug prices by insurance companies has also exposed pharmacies to losses, because they end up selling drugs to customers at a price higher than listed by insurance companies.

Efferalgan used to go for Rwf1000 last year, but it has reached Rwf1400 by December 2020, while prices of other drugs both generic and specialty have increased by more than 35 per cent.

The shortage of drugs started in public health facilities, which forced patients to buy medicine from private pharmacies which are also facing a shortage.