Even though there were adequate drugs to supply the patients, facilities in Chongwe district faced challenges in ensuring appropriate storage conditions for drugs.
The Centre for Infectious Disease Research in Zambia (CIDRZ) is currently supporting 29 facilities in Chongwe District. All the facilities including the district pharmacy had no functional air conditioners in the pharmacy store rooms to maintain appropriate temperatures for storage of drugs at the time CIDRZ started supporting Chongwe District. The few facilities with room thermometers recorded temperatures of above 35˚C to 40˚C especially in the hotter seasons. This is above the recommended temperature range of 15˚C to 30˚C. This exposure of drugs to uncontrolled temperatures is a risk to reduced potency of drugs, hence lowering their efficacy. Some facilities opted to ordering and storing fewer drugs so as to reduce on the period of exposure to the unfavorable storage conditions.
“I just notice color change in some drugs and guess that heat has damaged the product,” said the nurse at Katoba Rural Health Center.
The solution to this challenge was not to reduce stored quantities, but to have an effective temperature control system – air conditioners accompanied by room thermometers and temperature charts for daily monitoring of room temperatures.
In November 2017, CIDRZ, through the Pharmaceutical Services Department began an air conditioner installation exercise in Chongwe District. The District was supported with 14 air conditioners paired with installation accessories. This activity was done in close collaboration with the Chongwe district medical office whose technician was the installer. In February 2018, we also distributed room thermometers and temperature charts to 10 facilities in Chongwe district.
Facility staff are confident that the improved storage conditions will help maintain drug’s effectiveness during the shelf life. This came with mentorship on the use of the equipment, temperature monitoring and maintaining the pharmacy store room in order. They gave an assurance of taking care of the items given to them.
“Temperature will be maintained in appropriate range all year round! I will no longer feel guilty when dispensing drugs because they were kept within recommended temperature range as I am assured of safety and efficacy.” said pharmacy technologist Ngwerere Main Clinic.
“The community of Katoba will no longer complain of coming across discoloured brittle-tearing latex male condoms.” said a peer based at Katoba Rural Health Center.
“Facilities can now keep adequate quantity of stock without worrying on the products deteriorating during its storage period.” said the district pharmacist.
Based on the success of improving storage conditions, the district medical office also supported 2 facilities with air conditioners. The status for storage now stands at 58% of facilities installed with air conditioners, 73% have room thermometers all with temperature logs and 86% have the store room arranged in appropriate order.
CIDRZ has in its plan to continue improving storage conditions of drugs to ensure that quality drug product is dispensed to the patient for desired therapeutic outcomes. It is planned that by the end of 2020, 90% of CIDRZ supported facilities in Chongwe adhere to recommended storage guidelines. This is one of the organisations ways to improve access to quality healthcare in Zambia.