The supply of Anti Retroviral (ARV) drugs is expected to stabilise after government won a marathon court battle against one of the major suppliers, Portfolio Pharmaceuticals.
The company had cited irregularities in awarding of a tender for the supply of the drugs, after Portfolio Pharmaceuticals lost a significant share of the market to other players.
Following that, a lengthy court battle ensued, which had affected supply, with some patients receiving a weekly, rather than their monthly allocations.
Portfolio Pharmaceuticals had won a court interdict, as it sought a review of the tender process, but the government took the case to the Court of Appeal (CoA).
A CoA bench presided over by Justice Singh Walia overturned the decision on Friday, which should pave way for the normal supply of the critical life prolonging drug, to resume.
CoA overturned the decision of the lower court, arguing it was a case of life and death, and therefore the matter should be treated as such.
“It is therefore inexcusable that the ruling was delayed by a full six months from the date of hearing. Such delays are unconscionable and serve to erode public confidence in the judiciary,” Walia said in the judgement.
“In a matter where there were uncontroverted averments of imminent threat to the health and even life of patients in need of drugs, it was irresponsible of the judge to have treated the matter in what I can only call an uncaring manner.
“These are strong words but they only echo what has been said by this court before.”
The government, through the Ministry of Health and Wellness had appealed the case, in which Portfolio Pharmaceuticals, the Public Procurement and Asset Disposal Board and the Independent Complaints Review Committee were the respondents.
Meanwhile, the Botswana Network on Law and HIV/AIDS (BONELA) director, Cindy Kelemi welcomed the court judgment, saying this should serve as a vital lesson for the government, regarding the procurement processes of essential drugs such as ARVs.
“We hope the ministry has learnt lessons through this process. In our view, you cannot enter into an exclusive contract if we are dealing with essential drugs such as ARVs. Such a contract restricts the government in terms of being able to respond to emerging needs.
“We are also not happy that communication regarding this case and its implications on people was not clear and available.
In future we expect that the government would have a strong communication strategy such that people can make informed choices about their health,” she said.
Ministry of Health and Wellness permanent secretary, Ruth Maphorisa, told the media that the government would ensure that at any given time, there is adequate stock.
“In the long term, we have a plan that there is always adequate supply (of ARVs) at any given time,” Maphorisa said.