Many people flourish in properly structured systems, while for others the only way to succeed is in chaos. Recent media reports indicate evidence of underlying chaos in the system, and a lack of proper accountability. For some, this is precisely what they want to be able to “thrive”. It is time for pharmaceutical professionals to enter the fray and give measured insights into the challenges of pharmaceutical procurement.
When one considers the amount of money that is being siphoned off by a series of manipulative businessmen, that chaos in pharmaceutical procurement is neither good for the Namibian patient, nor useful for the country.
What is more disheartening is that both the ministry of health and the Central Procurement Board keep on being misled by people with no experience or skills in the pharmaceutical or medical industry, while those with intimate knowledge of the industry watch in silence. Namibia has many able pharmaceutical professionals in pharmacists, pharmaceutical scientists and academics. No one has offered an opinion, advice, or/and commented on the mess in the pharmaceutical procurement process. I cannot say at this point if any of the professionals were ever asked. A single phone call or a request from the Central Procurement Board or the ministry of health to verify if a factory is a manufacturer or not, would have resolved the issue of whether a condom or gloves are a pharmaceutical product or if re-packaging is indeed manufacturing.
For anyone who wants to know, condoms or gloves are not pharmaceutical products, and re-packaging while it is part of a lengthy pharmaceutical manufacturing process, is not manufacturing. Pharmaceutical products are those that provide medical relief when used, and condoms or gloves do not. No one in this industry will usually refer to a re-packaging company as a manufacturer. Many people responsible for making important decisions in the medical and pharmaceutical seemingly do not understand the vocabulary and jargon in the pharmaceutical sector. It will help if those with a responsibility to procure pharmaceuticals try to seek help about such important challenges or shortcomings before they make decisions on who is suitable to supply pharmaceutical medicines to the Namibian public.
What will be beneficial for the sector is to set up additional standards that are expected from any would-be businesses in the pharmaceutical supply chain to adhere to. One such standard could be to require all those wishing to be involved in pharmaceutical procurement to attend a short course on pharmaceutical and medical industries and pass a simple examination before being allowed to work in this sector.
If one wants to become an estate agent in Namibia, there is a curriculum to study and an exam. Only when one completes the course of study and passes an exam are you allowed to buy and sell houses. A similar “accreditation” programme could be established for those who want to work in pharmaceutical procurement. This could deter unreliable businesses that see the ministry of health procurement as a vehicle to get-rich-quick.
It is also time for us as pharmaceutical professionals to get together and address the crisis in the procurement of pharmaceutical products, and give advice to the ministry of health and the CPBN. Without insights from this body of knowledge, these entities will keep floundering, while the Namibian public –including the patients – continue to be ripped off.
The two biggest challenges currently facing the ministry of health and CPBN are: firstly, their inability to differentiate legitimate businesses from others when choosing partners from and/or through who they should buy pharmaceutical products and medical devices.
Second, the challenges of insider dealing make it difficult to determine which bids present genuine value for the Namibian consumer, as opposed to those that were cut and pasted based on insider information.
The ministry of health and CPBN must weed out the informants and double agents in its midst to stop insider trading.
They also need proper research teams to conduct due diligence on the information provided to them when applications are made. If done properly, these efforts alone could stop these bodies from being outmanoeuvred by skilled con artists with long tentacles who can freely access confidential information to prepare “excellent” bids because of insider trading which is all too common in Namibia.
With the help of Namibian pharmaceutical professionals, a curriculum for a short course as well as an examination for would-be business owners in procurement could be established. This curriculum will include a brief introduction to medical devices and various pharmaceuticals. Such a programme could help transform the fortunes of the pharmaceutical procurement space in this country and save the Namibian public millions of dollars that are lost in the procurement lottery every year.
* Seth !Nowaseb is a pharmaceutical science professional. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org