Updated 09 June 2015

No shortage of ARVs in South Africa

The Department of Health has reiterated that, in South Africa, there is no shortage of ARVs – amid panic about drug stock outs.


Minister of Health, Dr Aaron Motsoaledi, has met with top bosses in the pharmaceutical industry over a shortage of medical supplies.

Last month South Africans went into a state of panic after the department published on its website a list of medicines that were out of stock.

These shortages have affected both the public and private health sectors and are caused by a lack of pharmaceutical ingredients globally.

Read: SA running out of penicillin

The urgent meeting took place on Friday with 32 executives from pharmaceutical companies and suppliers who have been experiencing difficulties supplying about 155 product lines over the past couple of weeks, the department said in a statement on Monday.

"The medicines affected by these shortages include certain antibiotics, cardiovascular medicines, analgesics, anaesthetic agents and central nervous system medicines."

Manufacturers of these medicines were given an opportunity to share the reasons for these shortages. The department said that while each product faces a specific set of challenges, these problems could be categorised into three areas:
- Difficulty with sourcing the active pharmaceutical ingredient and other raw materials
- Unforeseen delays in the formulation and packaging of medicines
- Unanticipated increases in demand for a particular medicine
"Manufacturers have reported that they have already implemented remedial measures to correct the problem, and over the next four weeks they plan to deliver all outstanding orders for the majority of the medicines affected."

Read: State hands out R10bn ARV tenders

The department indicated that it will be monitoring the situation and implementing other measures needed to ensure the availability of medicines in the health system.

It has also been searching for other global suppliers that may have sufficient stock of these items to assist until supplies are restored.  

"Over the next couple of weeks we anticipate receiving these medicines from suppliers outside South Africa and we are confident that supplies will improve."

The department said it will also engage the World Health Organisation (WHO) to get guidance with regard to products that are pre-qualified by them.

The department added that supplies of the HIV/Aids drug Abacavir had been restored.

"The National Department of Health would like to reiterate that in South Africa, there is no shortage of ARVs and the supplies of Abacavir are now restored and all back orders will be filled in mid-June."

Read: ARV shortages: DA is convinced the health department is to blame

The DA cautiously welcomed the intervention by Motsoaledi to have essential medications flown-in, but it said the stock-outs will remain if the department does not stage a lasting intervention.

"Just last week Minister Motsoaledi denied the stock-outs. However this week 20 essential medicines are being flown into the country on emergency flights to address the shortages," said MP Dr Heinrich Volmink in a statement on Monday.

He said that he will write to the Portfolio Committee Chairperson on Health, Lindelwa Dunjwa, to request that she call on Motsoaledi to appear before the committee and answer critical questions relating to stock-outs.

Also read:

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Shortage of dental anaesthetic in SA

Fear of becoming addicted prevents cancer patients from taking their meds


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Dr Sindisiwe van Zyl qualified at the University of Pretoria before working for an HIV/AIDS NPO in Soweto for many years. She was named one of the Mail & Guardian's Top 200 Young South Africans in 2012.

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