December 7, 2005

The state-controlled Kenya Medical Supplies Agency (KEMSA), which is the sole provider of drugs to public hospitals in the country, is to change its distribution structure. Under the new system, KEMSA will supply drugs based on demand, with hospitals required to provide a list of the drugs needed. Authorities hope that the measures will help reduce costs.

Previously, the government bought and supplied drugs in bulk without taking into account the specific needs of each hospital. As a result, institutions would often end up with a surplus of unneeded drugs -- such as hypertension treatments -- and a shortage of basic medicines like aspirin or paracetamol. The system was also open to corruption, with government drugs often ending up in private pharmacies.

KEMSA will support the initiative by carrying out audits to ensure that the supplied drugs are put to their intended use. The agency will also employ experts to guarantee the quality of all distributed medicines. The Kenyan government spends KES2bn (US$27.27mn) per year procuring and providing pharmaceuticals for hospitals and health centres.