Kenya is staring at a health crisis after pharmaceutical companies stopped importing drugs following a tug-of-war between importers and the government.
The Kenya Pharmaceutical Distributors Association Chairman Kamamia Murichu said on Monday that the companies that import and distribute medicines and pharmaceutical products had stopped importing the medicines until the government rescinds a new directive that subjects the products to double inspections before they are allowed into the country.
"This thing is already affecting us. Over the weekend, we saw seven containers sent back to India because the consignment did not have the PVoC," said Dr Murichu.
The new move means that the country could run out of drugs and other medical products. The industry supplies about 80 per cent of all imports into the country.
Although there are about 35 local drug manufacturers, imports meet the bulk of local demand. According to data from the Pharmacy and Poisons Board (PPB), the industry brought in pharmaceutical imports worth Sh72.8 billion USD $728 million last year.
Through the Ministry of Trade, the government introduced new regulations that require goods to have a pre-export verification certificate known as Pre-export Verification of Conformity (PVoC).
The PVoC is a conformity assessment certificate which is issued to exporting countries before the products are brought into the country.
From October 1, 2019, every importer must have their goods pre-inspected before leaving the country of export (PVoC).
This pre-inspection will cost USD $250 (Sh25,000) per product and will be done by Kenya Bureau of Standards appointed companies like Bureau Veritas, SGS or Intertek.
A new set of inspection of goods shipped to the country, which requires importers to have a pre-shipment certificate of compliance, came into effect in September 2019.
As a result, shipments that previously took between three to five days now take close to two months.
According to a circular dated June 4 head of Public Service, Joseph Kinyua said that the new rules are meant "to improve the cost of doing business and efficiency at ports of entry."
He added that the rules seek to ensure that goods coming into the country adhere to regulatory requirements and conform to quality standards.
The pharmaceutical companies have warned that not only will the delays plunge the country into a crisis, but it will also increase the cost of drugs.
Some essential medicines including cancer, pain killers, diabetes, hypertension, epilepsy, stomach ulcers, and even malaria drugs are already out of stock.
If the goods do not have PVoC they will not be allowed into the country. Instead, they will be returned to the country of export.
If they come in, the importer will have to pay 30 per cent of the value of each consignment.