/ 5 September 2008

Beijing shutdown hits SA medicines supply

The Beijing Olympics has had an unexpected side effect, which is being felt locally in the form of serious shortages of generic medicines, Business Day reported on Friday.

Generic drugs supplies worldwide were affected when China decided to halt chemicals production in and around Beijing temporarily before the Olympics.

Stephen Saad, CE of Aspen Pharmacare, Africa’s biggest generic drug maker, said the situation had been worsened by rising prices of fuel and commodities such as starch, used in making many generic drugs.

These had led to the trebling of prices in some instances. The fixed exit price, which is set by the government, did not take into consideration fluctuations of input costs.

This has led to some smaller pharmaceutical companies — supplying generic and original brand-name drugs — opting to discontinue ranges.

Sandoz SA said earlier this year that it had stopped making two drugs, an antibiotic and an allergy medication, as they were ”no longer viable”.

These factors had left South African pharmacists scrambling for medicine stocks including bronchodilators, antidepressants, diuretics,
penicillin and even vitamin C, the report said.

This was a grave problem for the health department, which was promoting generics in order to make medicines cheaper for consumers. – Sapa