Health Minister, Dr Frank Anthony on Monday revealed that since taking over the Ministry in August of 2020, over 300 truckloads of expired medication had had to be dumped from the Materials Management Unit (MMU) – the central storage bond of the Health Ministry.
He said that the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) Government inherited a “crisis” in relation to the quantity of expired medication being stored at MMU. Dr Anthony revealed that from 2015 to present day, the Health Ministry has had to dump over $10 billion worth of expired drugs and materials because of bad management.
He related that the electronic system at the MMU – called MAC – has been down for quite some time and that led to the former A Partnership for National Unity/Alliance For Change (APNU/AFC) Government not having a handle on the supplies stored in the central drug bond.
“When you look at it, we had about 300 truckloads of expired medicine we had to throw away and this is very costly to the country, all of us as taxpayers…the amount of medicines we have thrown away from the MMU does not take into consideration some of the expired medicines we had at Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation (GPHC) and so that too when we look at it, we estimate it is about $3 billion worth of medicine that we had to throw away,” Dr Anthony informed.
The Minister related that in order to create space at the MMU, they had to dump close to $1 billion in drugs between August and September 2020, and another $1 billion worth between October and present day. He further related that it was quite unfair to taxpayers that such large quantities of drugs have to be dumped.
“In all when we look back at our records, we found that from 2015 to now there have been close to $10 billion worth of medicines that have been thrown away. So, this is quite a significant sum of money where we purchase these medicines, they were sitting in the bond, expired there and nobody benefited from it,” he noted.
“In August 2020 (after we took office), we found that MMU was filled to brim with medication, but mostly these medications were expired and we were unable to use them. The MMU and other warehousing facility at the MOH and the Regions we didn’t know what was the stock level… More than 80 per cent of MMU bond space was occupied with expired medicine and supplies, and, therefore, we could not have used these medicines and since August we have been working with Food and Drug Department to start clearing out all of these expired medicines we have at the MMU. We have been able to dispose some of them, but we still have a lot of expired drugs and medical supplies in the bond,” he added.
He explained that in an effort to get a grip on the situation, the Ministry has conducted a comprehensive audit at the MMU and GPHC, which was completed last week. Additionally, they have validated all the stock at the MMU and embarked on a similar process at the regional storage facilities.
The outcome of the audit, the Minister said, will be used to get the supplies back on track as well as shared with the relevant agencies so that persons culpable of mismanagement could be dealt with.
He added that most of the expired medication were drugs that the regions were either not using or had a short shelf life.
The majority of the drugs are from the year 2017.
Thus far, Dr Anthony said that they have spent close to $12 billion to ensure that they have supplies in the system. A breakdown of the figure shows that $4 billion was spent on essential medication, $5 billion on Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), and $3 billion for lab reagents.
He is hoping that with the current tenders out, they would be able to stabilise supplies by July.
At present, the MMU is able to fill between 54 per cent and 100 per cent of orders for drugs and materials from the various regions. He added that they were now in the process of getting the electronic process back on track and moving towards a fully automated system to fill regional requisitions in real time.
However, backup systems would have to be put in place with such a mechanism and the Health Ministry is working towards that.