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MBABANE – Due to the ailing public health system, some local pharmacies are making a killing as they now operate for 24 hours.

Some pharmacists in different parts of the country shared that patients now call them even in the early morning hours to buy medication. While the Ministry of Health is sorting out the current drug shortage in public health institutions, the pharmacies have been making more money from the sale of drugs, medicine and gauze bandages. This has resulted in members of the public in need of medicinal supplies to purchase it from the pharmacies, even at night. Positive Living Pharmacy’s Mthunzi Maziya, operating at Pigg’s Peak, shared that patients usually call him during awkward hours, even after he had closed shop. He stated that this had been a regular occurrence ever since there were drug shortages in the country. “When a patient calls asking for medication, I gladly sell it to them because they have no other alternative at that time of the night. If we do not sell, imagine what would happen?” he rhetorically asked.  

He recalled a time when a parent of an asthmatic child called at night asking for medication and he quickly rushed to sell the medication since it was a matter of life and death. Another pharmacy owner based in Matsapha, who preferred to remain anonymous, said some patients even fetched pharmacists from their homes just so they could buy the medication they desperately needed. She went on to say that, at times, she did not respond to calls, since it was risky to open the pharmacy very late at night. She mentioned that people were in dire need of medical assistance and she was happy to serve emaSwati, especially at this time when there was no medication in public health institutions.


Another Mbabane-based pharmacy owner, said this had become a normal exercise for pharmacies. He said although they were risking to open shop at night, the situation permitted. He further said: “In a week, I think I get more than 10 calls from patients who are either in hospital or at home. We then make arrangements for their relatives to come and purchase for them. Most of these patients who need urgent help are diabetic and asthmatic patients, notwithstanding injured patients, who are admitted to hospitals.” Eswatini Business Pharmacy Association Public Relations Officer (PRO) Bhekane Maziya confirmed that pharmacies had been operating like this for some time now.  He added that the association had received many calls from various pharmacies and said they had no choice but to offer their services to the public.

Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Trade Chief Commercial Officer Sonto Hlophe said pharmacies were not breaking the law by selling to the public, even after normal business operating hours. “Pharmacies can operate 24 hours on any day unless the minister announces otherwise on a specific day. They are also allowed to open their businesses even during Incwala Day. This owes to the fact that they provide medication to the public. This has been ongoing since 2011,” she said. She went on to share that the pharmacies were also obligated to provide for their own security if and when working at night, including compensating their employees.