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South Africa: Pharmacists worry over possible abuse of looted drugs

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Bram Janssen/Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.


Dozens of drug stores have been ransacked in South Africa amid the country's recent public violence after former president Jacob Zuma was imprisoned, concerning the drug regulator about possible risks triggered by improper use of the missing medicine.

"The destruction has been bad, like terrible, in the sense that in most of the stores that we visited, including stores in our group, there's absolutely nothing that was left. People took everything. All medicines in there, regardless of schedule, everything," said Mogologolo Phasha, president of South African Pharmacy Council (SAPC).

According to authorities, drugs for treating COVID-19 and chronic diseases were unaccounted for after the lootings. Professionals warned of serious consequences brought about by improper storage and random use of the medicine without a prescription.

"It is very concerning because if you are going to have highly scheduled medicine, very dangerous medicine, also because we know that medicine can do good in healing people but can also harm, particularly if they are used without proper pharmaceutical supervision, which we expect will happen when these drugs are out there in the public," said Mogologolo Phasha.

The SAPC president was among the first in the country to encourage pharmacies to run businesses in impoverished areas previously under-serviced. It's so hurting for him to see so many pharmacies in these areas being subjected to looting and their efforts in promoting healthcare to more people were frustrated consequently.

The civil unrest which gripped Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) provinces in the past week first broke out in KZN after former president Jacob Zuma was jailed on July 7 for a 15-month term. His supporters started demonstrations and protests demanding the release of Zuma, which then evolved into violent robberies and arsons.

The country's new president Cyril Ramaphosa said the civil unrest was aimed at sabotaging the economy and destabilizing the country.

More than 20,000 national defense personnel have been deployed to assist police in quelling the unrest.

Ramaphosa cautioned that while calm is returning, those who incited the violence are still out there, and urged South Africans to work together to stop their plans.