Sikhumbuzo Moyo, [email protected]
GOVERNMENT has blacklisted four pharmaceutical companies and three individuals linked to drug and substance abuse as it intensifies the fight against the trading of illicit drugs and alcoholic beverages.
This comes as President Mnangagwa has taken a hardline stance against drug and substance abuse, which is threatening the lives of many youths and is destroying the future of some professionals.
Health experts have also raised concern about the negative effects of these drugs on human health-related problems, academic failures in the young generation, relationship failures and crime-related activities.
As part of efforts to curb the vice, the Government has set up an inter-ministerial task force on drug and substance abuse to end the scourge, which remains a great threat to the attainment of Vision 2030.
The taskforce is chaired by the Ministry of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare and deputised by the Ministry of Youth Empowerment, Development and Vocational Training. The task force technical officers are continuously being trained in curbing drug and substance abuse by the Government with support from the World Health Organisation.
Zimbabwe is also working towards a drug-free society through a drug master plan, which will help the country achieve Vision 2030. The master plan aims at dealing with drug and substance abuse in society.
One of the abused drugs is Histalix, a locally produced cough mixture containing codeine, which has prompted the Medicines Control Authority of Zimbabwe (MCAZ) to suspend licenses for the concerned businesses up to March 2025.
“The Authority, has revoked four permits for wholesale dealers and cancelled three persons’ licences who were promoting abuse of Histalix,” MCAZ director general Mr Richard Rukwata said in a statement yesterday.
He named the three individuals as Mr Tatenda Chigumbura, a supervisor at Murity Pharmaceuticals, Ms Spiwe Chipara who is a supervisor at Adept Pharmaceuticals, as well as Mr Didymus Kanyera, who works as a supervisor at Bestpharm Pharmaceuticals.
The three organisations that employed the suspended individuals also had their operators’ licences cancelled as well as Action 24 medical supplies.
MCAZ’s primary responsibility is to regulate medicines and medical devices in Zimbabwe.
“Through our robust regulatory framework, we ensure that only safe, effective, and quality medicines are available on the market,” said the authority.
“By doing so, we aim to prevent the circulation of counterfeit drugs and unregistered substances that can contribute to drug abuse. The authority has put in place mechanisms to control the availability of codeine-containing medicines by making prescription preparations.
“This means that they cannot be dispensed without the provision of a valid prescription. However, the authority notes with concern that over-the-counter medicines from other countries are continuously being imported illegally,” said Mr Rukwata.
He said MCAZ is committed to protecting public and animal health through its regulatory functions and as part of this mandate, MCAZ recognises the urgent need to combat drug and substance abuse in Zimbabwe.
Drug abuse, said Mr Rukwata, is a complex issue that affects individuals, families, and communities across Zimbabwe and poses serious threats to public health, social stability, and economic development.
“MCAZ acknowledges that addressing this challenge requires a comprehensive approach involving various stakeholders, including Government agencies, healthcare professionals, civil society organisations, and the public. The authority is honoured to be part of the technical committee set up by Government of Zimbabwe, which is mandated to come up with strategies to combat the vice of drugs and substance abuse,” said Mr Rukwata.
“The authority has put in place a mechanism to control the availability of codeine-containing medicines by making the prescription preparations. This means that they cannot be dispensed without the provision of a valid prescription.
“However, the authority notes with concern that over-the-counter medicines from other countries are continuously being imported illegally,” said Mr Rukwata.
In another development, the Government has raised grave concern over the increasing number of unsafe and hazardous products, including illicit drugs and alcoholic beverages that are being sold in grocery shops and supermarkets throughout the country.
Minister of Industry and Commerce, Dr Sithembiso Nyoni, said manufacturers of alcoholic beverages must henceforth adhere to Statutory Instrument 25 of 2001 on Food and Food Standards (alcoholic beverages), as well as the Trade Measures Act (Chapter 14:23) in order to protect consumers from consumption of unsafe and hazardous goods.
“My ministry is mandated to improve consumer welfare and economic growth through the Consumer Protection Act (Chapter 14:44), which inter-alia is meant to protect consumers from the consumption of unsafe and hazardous products, including the abuse of illicit drugs/alcoholic beverages illegally manufactured and some imported into the country,” she said.
“The ministry has noted with great concern that these substances are now available in ordinary supermarkets, grocery shops as well as tuck shops.
“This sad development has exacerbated drug and substance abuse among the youths as they now have easy access to these shops,” said Minister Nyoni.
She said supermarkets and grocery shops were being urged to desist from stocking illicit alcoholic beverages as well as those smuggled into the country and her ministry shall be engaging responsible authorities, including Standards Association of Zimbabwe, to investigate the contents of these illicit alcoholic beverages in order to fully inform consumers.
“On its part, the ministry will intensify monitoring and investigative activities through the Consumer Protection Commission and Trade Measures to curb such practices. It will adopt a whole of Government approach to collaborate with all ministries and agencies on enforcement of all the statutes responsible for consumer protection,” said Minister Nyoni.