Mental health takes a knock as psychiatric med stocks dwindle

Picture: iStock.

Medications for psychiatric patients comprised 2% of all reported stockouts in the beginning of this year, but by August this figure  rose to 11%.

Shortages in psychiatric and other medications doubled this year, putting many patients at risk of relapse and even death.

This according to the Stop Stockouts Project (SSP), an non-governmental organisation (NGO) tracking stockouts at public health facilities.

Examples of drugs which frequently ran out included those used to treat severe mental and neurological illnesses such as schizophrenia and epilepsy. Among these were Haloperidol, Lithium, Diazepam and Sodium Valporate, the latter being used to treat epileptic patients.

Disruptions in the supply chain systems this year were found to be among the general causes nationally, while locally unpaid suppliers and issues with logistics were identified.

Sifiso Mkhasibe, a public mental healthcare patient and activist at the SA Federation for Mental Health, said: “Medication stockout meant that I have to receive different medication to substitute, which is not prescribed to me. This prevents me from being able to get the proper treatment and that issue really affects my mental health.”

Recent data released by the group showed that South Africa, like the rest of the world, saw an increase in reports of stockouts from the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic in the public health system. Medications for psychiatric patients comprised 2% of all reported stockouts in the beginning of this year, but by August this figure  rose to 11%.

SSP project coordinator, Ruth Dube, said the biggest increases were seen between April and October as compared to last year.

“Medications for HIV, contraceptives or those haven’t changed so much, but in the category of mental health that is where we ended up having them wanting to raise awareness,” said Dube. Last month 118 confirmed stock-outs were reported while in November so far, 111 had been reported, according to the organisation’s latest data.

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