THE Federal Government and the health authorities should assiduously respond to the alarm raised by the Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria, PSN, over the creeping distress threatening the industry as a result of the abuse of the Drug Revolving Fund, DRF, by tertiary medical institutions.

President of the Society, Mazi Sam Ohuabunwa, at a briefing organised in Lagos to mark this year’s World Hepatitis Day, disclosed that the federal and state teaching hospitals, Federal Medical Centres, parastatals and others, are owing pharmaceutical industries N30 billion due to their failure to repatriate funds for drugs supplied them under the DRF scheme.

The DRF mechanism was established in 1988 sequel to the Bamako Initiative sponsored by the World Health Organisation, WHO, and the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund, UNICEF, as a means of keeping drugs constantly available and affordable in government medical institutions to reduce the “out of stock” syndrome, especially in developing countries like Nigeria.

According to the Women’s Health and Action Research Centre, WHARC: “DRF Scheme starts with one-time capital investment (seed money), provided by government, donor agencies or interested communities which is used to purchase an original stock of essential and commonly used medicines to be dispensed at prices sufficient to replace the stock of medicines and ensure a continuous supply”.

What it means is that once the mechanism is broken at any point, the revolving will stop, and the cost of this can be expensive. The scheme’s noble objectives will be defeated.

Ohuabunwa alleged that many institutions corruptly divert  proceeds from the DRF. Because of this, drug manufacturers have been denied of funds to produce more drugs.

The implications of this are all too obvious: imminent job losses and eventual plant closures, all because of corruption.

Ohuabunwa also cited a good example of where the scheme was well managed. The National Orthopaedic Hospital at Igbobi Lagos, reportedly maintains good faith with the scheme and was even able to generate additional capital to build an edifice worth N200 million.

This shows that if the element of corruption is removed, the scheme will not only meet its objectives but also shore up the finances of the health institutions.

It is unfortunate that an important scheme such as the DRF was set up without a proper mechanism for checks and balances.

Because there was no regulator to ensure that what went round came round, people felt free to corruptly help themselves at the expense of public health and the well-being of the pharmaceutical sector.

We call on the anti-graft agencies to swing into action on this matter and root out those behind the collapse of the DRF. Government should inject new funds into it and set up a regulatory or policing mechanism to prevent future failure.

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