Kenya: Cancer Drugs Outside the List of Government Essential Medicines


The State Institution responsible for buying medicines for public hospitals does not store cancer drugs amid increasing deaths and acute shortages.

Cancer medicines The Kenya Medical Supplies Authority (Kemsa) is not listed among important medicines for diseases such as malaria, HIV / Aids and tuberculosis even though the disease kills 32,987 Kenyans every year.

Revelation came when Kenya experienced a public health crisis after an acute shortage of mercaptopurine, which is used for the treatment of leukemia, and carboplatin that fights cancer of the ovaries, esophagus, bladder, breast, lungs and cervix.

The absence of cancer drugs from the list of important medicines belonging to Kemsa contradicts the World Health Organization (WHO) which has included drugs in its ranking of critical health products.

Kemsa chief executive Jonah Mwangi said cancer products did not include the company's important medicines, adding that they would start placing orders for medicines in the current financial year.

"We have evaluated and selected the lowest bidder and starting next Thursday we will have anti-cancer drugs on board, even though Kenyatta National Hospital does not get medicine from Kemsa," said Mwangi. Mercaptopurine, which is a chemotherapy drug, runs out in KNH – which treats about 90 percent of cancer patients in public hospitals, placing the lives of those who suffer from leukemia at risk.

The drawback starts in August. KNH said it expects inventory at the end of yesterday.

Mr Mwangi said they did not get an offer for mercaptopurine

"No bidder has been found to be able to supply drugs at competitive prices. The authority, therefore, will obtain directly from producers in India or Europe," he said.

He said the authorities should not be blamed for not storing anti-cancer drugs because public hospitals did not sue them.

"Most hospitals have bought directly from producers and only switched to the Kemsa when there was a problem. If they can tender with us, then we will have it in our warehouse and avoid the crisis," said Mwangi.

It is not yet known when drugs will be sent in the country, making more people at risk.


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