The Pharmacy, Medicines and Poisons Board has said that Malawi recorded 28 cases of theft of government medical drugs between January and September this year, and only four of these cases are yet to be concluded by the courts.
The Board’s update on the matter shows that during the said months, the Southern region topped the list with 11 cases, seconded by the Eastern region which recorded nine cases; the Central region had seven cases while the North recoded just one case.
However, of the 23 cases concluded, only one culprit, Montfort Macheso from Chiradzulu, who was found in possession of government property suspected to have been stolen or unlawfully obtained, was sentenced to 18 years imprisonment with hard labour (IHL) without an option of a fine.
Levison Magomero from the same district of Chiradzulu got the toughest fine as he was slapped with a K380 000 ($667) fine, or in default serve 48 months IHL, seconded by a K220 000 ($386) fine slapped on Zomba based Baxton Mwembere. The two were answering the charge of being found in possession of medical drugs without a licence.
The update coincided with a warning US Global Coordinator on Presidential Malaria initiative (PMI) Rear Admiral Tim Ziemer and US Ambassador to Malawi Virginia Palmer issued at a press briefing in Lilongwe recently regarding theft of malaria drugs in the country.
They warned that Malawi risks losing K114 billion ($203,571,429) funding for the fight against Malaria from the US government if wide-spread theft of drugs is not stopped.
Ambassador Palmer also suggested that the Ministry of Health should submit amendments to parliament on the Pharmacies, Medicines and Poisons Board Act in order to stiffen penalties for theft of medicine.
Speaking during opening of the 46th Session of Parliament last Friday, President Peter Mutharika said government has empowered hospitals and health advisory committees to ensure community ownership of supplies to reduce pilferage.
“We are also arranging to amend the Pharmacy, Medicines and Poison Act (1988) in order to strengthen the legal framework for punishing those who steal drugs and cause untold suffering and death of innocent souls and law abiding citizens. Time for stealing medicine is over!” declared Mutharika.
Meanwhile, the Board has urged the general public to report all those dealing in illegal sales of medicines and medical products, saying most of them are stolen from public hospital and health centres.