Maputo — A significant number of pharmacies in Maputo are operating illegally, according to a report on the independent television station STV.
There are 237 licensed pharmacies in the city. In 2018, 79 of them were inspected and 17 were fined for a variety of offences. The Attorney-General's Office (PGR) has begun criminal proceedings against 13 pharmacies.
STV sent its reporters around pharmacies, particularly on the outskirts of the capital, and found blatant disregard for elementary safety precautions. Medicines need to be kept cool, otherwise they will deteriorate.
Yet STV found, in several of the pharmacies visited, that there was no functioning cooling system. Thus a private pharmacy in Mavalane neighbourhood had no refrigeration system, and its air conditioner, although installed, was not switched on. A cashier at this establishment told STV that the air conditioner was off, first because there was no electricity and secondly because her boss had not yet arrived.
In the Laulane neighbourhood, there was a different excuse. An employee said the air conditioner was turned off "because we are cleaning up".
Over and over again, it was the same story: the pharmacies had air conditioning units, but they were not switched on. One recently opened pharmacy was relying on fans, but these do not guarantee the cooling conditions necessary to preserve medicines.
The Pharmacy Inspectorate in the Maputo City Health Directorate told STV that among the offences for which pharmacies were fined last year were the lack of refrigeration, the sale of medicines past their expiry date, and the presence of unqualified staff. In one case a pharmacy technical director displayed a degree certificate that was forged.
Other problems included lack of hygiene and the sale of medicines that can only legally be sold by the Ministry of Health. The cases now before the PGR involve the theft and illicit sale of medicines belonging to the National Health Service.
One of the inspectors, Castigo Lole, regretted that his office had been unable to inspect all the pharmacies last year.
He stressed that it is obligatory to keep the air conditioning switched on, and pharmacies operating without a cooling system can be fined up to 80,000 meticais (about 1,270 US dollars, at current exchange rates).