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Zimbabwe’s Medicine Control Authority is investigating allegations that unlicensed drug importers are distributing bogus antiretroviral drugs throughout the country, in places such as hair salons and flea markets.
Several of these illegal drugs are tainted either with other substances or with useless ingredients. Some experts warn that using these medicines can increase the chances of becoming resistant to treatment. Also, it becomes even more expensive to continue treatment, said Minister of Health David Parirenyatwa.
Approximately 50,000 HIV-infected patients receive medication from government hospitals. Also, an estimated 300,000 more are in need of vital treatment.
Many local manufacturers of HIV/AIDS drugs have been unable to acquire enough imported raw materials, which must be paid for in hard currency.
In order to fight an inflation rate of 7,634%, the Zimbabwean government ordered price cuts on all goods and services. Pharmacies report that the majority of medicines are in short supply due to this reduction in costs.
According to the Herald/AllAfrica.com, low availability and high cost of antiretrovirals at private pharmacies—ranging between two million to 10 million Zimbabwean dollars, about $8,200 to $410,000 USD, respectively—has influenced the illegal market for drugs.