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Shortage of critical TB drug causes anxiety

SEVERAL people are suspected to have died following a serious shortage of a critical tuberculosis (TB) drug over the past four months, The Standard has been told.


Sources in the medical field said the Streptomycin drug, which is used to treat patients who would have failed first line treatment for TB, ran out of stock sometime last year.

“The government can provide none to hospitals and patients are dying because they cannot get this treatment,” a source said. “If they do not die they can become resistant to drugs and get a form of TB called multi-drug resistant TB which is difficult to treat and which can easily kill patients.

The source added: “Treatment is expensive, only available in Harare and is usually a two-year treatment —if the patient lives that long.”
The sources said most hospitals in Zimbabwe were in a quandary as to what to do with the patients who were practically being sentenced to death.

“Patients are dying and as medical practitioners we did not train to see people die or infect other people,” a source said.

Dr Charles Sandy, deputy director of Aids and tuberculosis programmes at the Ministry of Health and Child welfare last week confirmed the shortage of the drug but added that the issue had since been resolved.

“The drug was not sufficient in some institutions sometime in December but we have enough stock now,” Sandy said. “We received a consignment about two weeks ago and we expect all institutions, including those which were facing shortages, to be having enough by now.”

Sandy said reports that some deaths were recorded following the shortage were “very false”.

Both Dr Thomas Zigora and Peggy Zvavamwe, chief executive officers for Parirenyatwa Group of Hospitals and Harare Central Hospital respective said they had not experienced a shortage of the critical TB drug at any time.

Harare City Council spokesperson Leslie Gwindi also said council hospitals, where most TB cases are treated, did not encounter any problems.

But sources insisted that all major hospitals and council clinics had run out of the drug, resulting in some deaths which could have been prevented.

Zimbabwe is ranked 17 on the list of 22 high burden TB countries in the world.

Sandy had promised to supply latest figures but had not done so by the time of going to press.

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