BONELA CALLS ON GOVERNMENT TO REVIEW ITS PROCUREMENT PROCESSES OF ESSENTIAL MEDICINES INCLUDING ARVS
Today 15th November 2019, the High Court of Appeal delivered a judgement in favour of the Ministry of Health in a case between the Ministry of Health and Wellness and Portfolio Pharmaceuticals Botswana (PTY) Ltd. over the procurement of 7 drugs – among them ARVs. In August 2019, the High Court acceded to the Pharmaceutical company’s request for an interdict against the Ministry of Health and Wellness; essentially preventing the Ministry from procuring drugs elsewhere while the parties are resolving their dispute. A panel of 3 judges - namely Judge J.P Kirby, Judge J. A. Lesetedi and Judge J. A. Walia - set aside the decision of the High Court and lifted the interdict.
BONELA commends the court of appeal for handing down a judgement that is in favour of People Living with HIV who are in need of Anti- Retro Viral Treatment. It is also a judgement that affirms the promotion, protection and fulfilment of the right to health.
BONELA has been following the case with keen interest. Consequently, BONELA engaged the Ministry, which insisted that there is no shortage of ARVs as a result of the ongoing dispute. BONELA has also been reliably informed that the Ministry made a contingency plan following the interdict, by way of appealing to partners in its existing treatment network to buffer the shortage pending resolution of the dispute. BONELA commends the international community’s commitment to helping Botswana not only achieve epidemic control and ending AIDS by 2030, but by also ensuring fidelity in its treatment programme and continuum of care.
BONELA maintains that Government needs to put the interests of Batswana first in all its dealings and therefore calls on Government to:
- Review its procurement policies and processes by removing barriers such as awarding exclusivity contracts for essential medicines. This will allow the country flexibility in instances where transitioning from one supplier to another is required and to ensure the uninterrupted supply of essential medicines.
- There is need for greater transparency and accountability. BONELA urges the Ministry of Health to communicate with the public to curb the spread of misinformation and public alarm.
- BONELA appeals to the Ministry of Health and Wellness, Public Procurement and Asset Disposal Board and the Independent Complaints Review Committee to find a swift and cost effect resolution to this dispute.