Reports that about half of hospitals in Kenya do not regularly remove expired or unusable medicines from their shelves paint a grim picture of the country’s otherwise robust health sector.
While drugs are the most frequently used remedies for health problems in Kenya, they are only effective where they accurately meet patients’ needs.
The Kenya Harmonised Health Facility Assessment report released after a new survey by the Health ministry has however shown that only 54 percent of health facilities, both public and private, regularly ensure drugs on their shelves are usable.
The rest neither have records nor processes in place to ensure disposal of expired or unusable drugs, and therein lies the danger because expired medicines are classified as harzadous for health and safety.
As such, the ministry must take urgent measures to fill the gaps identified by this report and ensure that drugs on shelves are safe for use. There must be a policy, as well as guidelines, that compel hospitals to document all the drugs that they procure, how they dispense them and what happens to the surplus.
As things stand now, drug outlets in Nairobi, Nyeri, Migori and Garissa hardly keep records of the volumes of pharmaceutical products received and dispensed, and the balances according to the report.
This implies that they can hardly estimate the stocks available in the counties and are at a weaker position when it comes to demand forecasting.
That is why some counties find themselves without stocks when diseases like malaria strike, affecting large swathes of the population.
It is important that all the health facilities in this country must have inbuilt systems which ensure adequate stocks are maintained and that expired drugs are promptly disposed of safely.
And it can be done. According to the report, almost three quarters of the 47 counties reported having a proper inventory on pharmacy supplies, with Isiolo topping the rankings at 100 percent followed by Kisumu and Baringo at 98 percent each.
We hope to see this practice spread to other parts of Kenya. According to the World Health Organisation, a robust management system informs reliable drugs consumption data and demand forecasting.
And, being a developing country that regularly receives drug donations, strong internal controls will ensure that recipient hospitals are not being used as disposal grounds for unsuitable, unnecessary or expired medicines.